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Police officer given legal costs to help continue compensation case

A police officer who sued the Bermuda Police Service for injuries sustained during a training exercise has been awarded $45,000 in legal costs.

Joseph Reynolds said he severely injured his ankle during a training exercise and claimed there were a lack of oversight and safety measures in place.

He told the court that as part of the training, he was tasked to be a “stooge” to be removed from a vehicle and arrested.

Mr Reynolds said that he was instructed that if the officer failed to control him, he should attempt to flee.

But other witnesses said the “stooges” were told to comply with instructions without resistance.

Mr Reynolds said the officer tasked with removing him from the car was “sloppy” and that he had kicked at the officer’s chest at half strength and attempted to run.

He said the officer then applied a headlock and, in the ensuing struggle, Mr Reynolds suffered a fractured and dislocated ankle which required multiple surgeries to repair and still limits his ability to walk.

He argued in court that the exercise should have been stopped as soon as the officer had gripped him improperly and that there had not been sufficient oversight.

Earlier this year, the court ruled partially in his favour, finding that the Bermuda Police Service had failed to meet its OSHA obligations and that another officer had made an “error of judgment”.

But the court also found that Mr Reynolds had contributed to the accident in a significant way and that any award should be reduced by 60 per cent.

While the court has yet to hear arguments about what the payout should be, Mr Reynolds argued that he should receive his legal costs for the liability portion of the trial.

Ben Adamson, counsel for Mr Reynolds, told the Supreme Court that his client was the winner in common sense terms and would receive “non-nominal” compensation.

However he said it would be difficult for him to pay for further litigation without receiving the costs of his legal expenses thus far as he was self-funded and unable to work because of his injuries.

Laura Williamson, for the Attorney-General’s Chambers, however said Mr Reynolds had lost on the most time-consuming arguments and the court should reserve costs until the conclusion of the matter.

Puisne Judge Larry Mussenden said in a ruling dated August 19 that Mr Reynolds was the winner in common-sense terms, however there should be a reduction in the costs.

“Mr Reynolds is now out of work, is unable to work in the UK police service and has used his own resources to fund the litigation thus far still resulting in a debt to his counsel’s firm,” Mr Justice Mussenden said.

“The Crown is in a markedly different position such there is a huge disparity in resources.

“Without a payment on account, he is at risk of not being able to continue to fund the litigation to conclusion although he was successful.”

The judge noted that a Calderbank offer – a settlement intended to end a dispute – had been made to Mr Reynolds shortly before trial proposing to settle the issue of liability on a percentage basis.

“In placing the issues in the balance, in my view, based on the principles of fairness and what is just in this case, I should make an order for payment on account but for a lesser amount than requested,” Mr Justice Mussenden said.

“I accept Mr Adamson’s arguments that the majority of the costs were incurred prior to the date of the Calderbank offer, which was made shortly before the start of the trial, but the uncertainty of the Calderbank offer still hovers over this phase of the litigation.

“On that basis, I find that $45,000 in all the circumstances is an appropriate amount for payment on account.”

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