Thursday, 17 November 2022 12:30

MOCA wins landmark Privy Council search and seizure ruling

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The United Kingdom-based Privy Council handed down a landmark ruling today in favour of the Jamaican police that under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2007 there is no restriction to prevent the investigatory power from conducting the seizure and search of material and information prior to the legislation coming into effect.

The ruling was made in an appeal brought by Sergeant Bibbette Smalling of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) against attorney-at-law Dawn Satterswaite and others.

The Privy Council today overturned a 2019 ruling by the Court of Appeal that material and information prior to May 30, 2007, could not be obtained on the foot of a search and seizure warrant issued under section 115 of the Act and ordered that any documents seized from Satterswaite prior to that date should be returned.

Smalling is the investigating officer in the case involving the respondent Satterswaite and others. 

The investigation stems from the case of Andrew Hamilton who was convicted of trafficking offences in the United States and the seizure of his assets in Jamaica under the Act.

Satterswaite claimed the documents attracted legal professional privilege.

Today, the Privy Council said the appeal raises an important question as to whether a search and seizure warrant issued under section 115 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2007 (POCA) for the purpose of investigating criminal conduct occurring on or after May 30, 2007, can nevertheless authorise the search for and the seizure of information or material that came into existence prior to May 30, 2007.

The Privy Council held that the public interest condition was satisfied “as there are reasonable grounds for believing that it is in the public interest for the information or material to be obtained having regard to the benefit likely to accrue to the investigation if the information or material is obtained.

“There is no restriction either on the  investigatory power in POCA or on that power's application to the facts of this case to prevent the search for and the seizure of information or material which came into existence prior to May 30, 2007.”

The Privy Council commended then Supreme Court judge Jennifer Straw, who is now a Court of Appeal judge, for making that similar ruling in her judgment.
Satterswaite is facing criminal charges over the alleged purchase of properties for Hamilton.

Satterswaite and others are charged with breaches of the Proceeds of Crime Act.