A paedophile schoolteacher who sexually molested students is suing Government for almost $500,000, claiming prison officers beat him up and destroyed his parole documents.
Erwin Nisbett has been given the green light by a judge to pursue his claims in Supreme Court later this year.
Nisbett made further allegations that he had to breathe second-hand cannabis and crack smoke from other inmates, was wrongfully put in solitary confinement, had family visits restricted and did not have his vegetarian diet respected.
Those claims were blocked from proceeding further by Judge Stephen Hellman after they were challenged by a government lawyer.
Nisbett, 63, of Pembroke, was convicted by the unanimous verdicts of a jury on January 24, 2003 of sexually exploiting seven primary-school-aged girls.
One victim was just seven years old, and the trial heard that the girls suffered mood swings, paranoia, flashbacks and nightmares as a result of the abuse, which occurred over a two-year period in the late 90s.
Nisbett was jailed for five years in May 2003, and this was subsequently increased to seven years by the Court of Appeal. He was released from prison on licence in September 2007.
In April this year, Nisbett sued the Attorney General and Commissioner of Prisons, saying his rights under the Constitution had been “wantonly violated” during his time at Westgate Correctional Facility.
In a sworn statement supporting his case, he said he was “on four separate occasions June 14 and 18 2003, September 17, 2004 and September 25, 2004 subjected to unwarranted physical beatings by Corrections officers and inmates, at the instigation of Corrections officers, which resulted in my enduring pain, suffering and humiliation”.
In a letter from his lawyer Valdon Ceasars to the Attorney General in May 2011, Nisbett claimed one of these beatings came when two prison officers were trying to make him take a shower, and he refused to do so. He claimed he was escorted against his will from his cell, shoved into the shower, and had his pants forcefully removed.
“As the claimant [Nisbett] struggled to prevent them from doing this, he was turned upside down by the officers who began hitting his head repeatedly on the tile floor, in an up and down motion, at least five times, despite his screaming as a result of the pain,” wrote Mr Ceasars, saying Nisbett was then escorted, naked, back to his cell.
“As a result of his beating, the claimant was unable to sit up in a chair and remained in bed for three weeks. In addition, he did not receive any medical attention following the beating.
“During and after the time he was confined to bed, recovering from his injuries, officers made fun of the claimant and the beating he suffered.
“Officers also encouraged other inmates to make fun of the claimant.”
Mr Caesar made a further allegation that on another occasion, officers instigated a beating that Nisbett suffered at the hands of inmates.
Nisbett claims his constitutional right to protection from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment was breached by his treatment inside Westgate.
In his sworn statement, he further alleged: “Sometime between the summer or fall of 2005 and winter 2006, I was subjected to my parole documents being wilfully destroyed by Corrections officers, delaying my release on licence and causing me mental anguish and grief.”
Following technical legal arguments between Nisbett’s lawyer and government lawyer Shakira Dill last month, Mr Justice Hellman rejected Ms Dill’s bid to get the case relating to the alleged beatings and destruction of documents thrown out.
However, the judge said Nisbett could not proceed with claims that he suffered from wrongful committal to solitary confinement, unjustifiable restrictions on family visits and wilful disregard of his special dietary requirements as a vegetarian member of the Seventh-day Adventist religion.
The judge also barred Nisbett from pursuing his claim that he was “subjected to regular exposure to second-hand cigarette, cannabis and crack cocaine smoke emanating from other inmates’ cells”.
The judge made his ruling on the basis of legal points relating to the sections of law relied upon by Nisbett in his claims.
“I should make it clear that this hearing was not concerned with the merits of the plaintiff’s claim, as to which I am not in a position to express any view,” he wrote.
The total compensation being sought by Nisbett before the judge’s ruling was $471,868. Mr Caesar said yesterday that that figure is likely to go down as a result of the ruling, but he declined to comment further on the case at this stage.
Government is challenging Nisbett’s claims and has been given time by the court to respond to them.
A trial is expected to take place in Supreme Court later this year.
The full ruling can be read online at www.judiciary.gov.bm