(CMR) Doctors Express has been successful in their lawsuit against the Customs and Border Control, the Chief Medical Officer, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and the Justice of the Peace who signed the search warrant allowing authorities to raid the medical facility in September 2019.
In an excoriating judgment issued on 5 February 2021, the Grand Court ruled that the raid on Doctors Express by RCIPS and Customs in September 2019 was unlawful. The Court also ruled that the Cease Notice banning vaporisable medical cannabis issued by Doctor Lee, the Chief Medical Officer (“the CMO”), was unlawfully issued and done in response to a request from Customs when Doctor Lee knew it had no medical basis whatsoever.
The Court found that the Cease Notice and raid were part of a plan to deliberately target Doctors Express and that senior Customs officers colluded with the Health Practice Commission (“HPC”) and Dr. Lee to ban cannabis vapes unlawfully.
In evidence uncovered on the final day of the trial the court heard that Dr. Lee had corresponded with Mrs. Carlene Vassell-Webb, the Registrar of the HPC, Dr. Louis Cona, the Chairman of the Medical Dental Council (and a member of the HPC), Dr. Michelle Mon Desir, the Chairman of the HPC, and Nancy Barnard, the Acting Chief Officer of the Ministry of Health before issuing the ban, stating that he did not regard the pharmaceutical-grade vapes Doctors Express were prescribing as a risk to public health but, in the face of medical guidance to the contrary, would still ban them.
Having issued an “irrational and unfair” ban when “there was no basis in fact or law” to do so and “on a basis [that] the CMO himself did not truly believe”. Dr. Lee then provided a witness statement and swore two affidavits for use in the Grand Court in which he claimed that he had issued the ban for medical reasons. Describing Dr. Lee’s evidence as “misleading”, “unreliable and unpersuasive” the Court quashed the Cease Notice.
Having unlawfully obtained the Cease Notice, officers acting on instructions from the Director of Customs then used it to obtain a search warrant of Doctors Express. A Customs officer gave sworn evidence to a Justice of the Peace to get the warrant which was “false”, “dangerously misleading” and made “baseless and unjust” allegations against Doctors Express.
The Customs officer then swore affidavits and gave evidence to the Grand Court in which she gave conflicting accounts about both her own earlier evidence to the Justice of the Peace and written evidence to the Grand Court. The Court found she was also an unreliable witness. Quashing the search warrant and declaring the raid unlawful the Court found that “from the beginning to the end…this was a complete failure to follow the law” by Customs. The Court also ruled that the RCIPS had acted unlawfully and the Justice of the Peace had failed in her duties and issued the search warrant unlawfully.
The Court criticized the manner in which the Attorney General’s Chambers (representing Customs, the CMO and the RCIPS) had conducted their case. The Court found that “at no time in their presentations have [Customs, RCIPS, and Dr. Lee] addressed or indeed sought to come to terms with the breadth of the case made against them”. Referring to the submissions made by the AG’s lawyers the Court found that some were “highly implausible”, “false and dangerous”
and “unfairly prejudicial, completely circumstantial and contrary to the public interest”.
In a press release issued earlier this evening Director of Doctors Express, Samuel Banks said that he was pleased with the outcome but regretted it was necessary to bring the case. He noted:
“I am glad that as a result of this legal action vaporisable medical cannabinoids are again safely available to those who need them in the Cayman Islands. When Doctors Express first brought these pharmaceutical-grade medications to Cayman we liaised with Customs, the Police, the CMO, the Health Practice Commission and all relevant bodies to ensure we fully complied with the law. I am relieved but not surprised that the Grand Court agreed that we acted entirely lawfully throughout.”
The owners are now seeking to make formal complaints of criminal offenses against the parties including perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.