Debevoise Successfully Challenges the Arrest and Search of a Bermudian Physician in the Bermuda Court of Appeal

27 March 2020

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP has advised and represented a prominent Bermudian physician resulting in a victory in the Bermuda Court of Appeal.  The appellate court upheld a prior ruling of the Bermuda Supreme Court that his arrest and the search of his home by Bermudian police were unlawful. 

Since 2000, the physician has worked at Bermuda Health Care Services (“BHCS”), a clinic owned by the former Bermudian Premier, Dr. Ewart Brown. Since 2011, Dr. Brown and BHCS have been under police investigation in relation to various allegations, including allegations of systematic, medically unjustified, and fraudulent ordering of diagnostic scans to the detriment of insurance companies and the Bermudian public finances.  Dr. Brown denies any wrongdoing and believes the investigation to be politically motivated. 

The investigation into Dr. Brown extended to the physician as a suspected co-conspirator. He strongly denies ever having ordered scans other than in the best interests of his patients (none of whom have ever complained) and in accordance with best medical practice. 

Purportedly as part of the investigation into suspected over-scanning, in the early morning of May 19, 2016, a large number of police officers arrived at the physician’s home. They did not have any warrants, but they summarily arrested him, searched his home, and seized patient files, management reports and two iPads.

Debevoise advised to challenge the arrest and search, with London partner Lord Goldsmith KC appearing as lead attorney at a two-day hearing before the Bermuda Supreme Court in May 2017.  In June 2017, the Court quashed the decision summarily to arrest the physician, declared the search of his home unlawful, ordered the return of his seized property, and for damages to be assessed.  This was the first time that the police’s powers of summary arrest had been challenged before Bermudian courts. 

The police appealed the ruling, and on March 4, 2020, Lord Goldsmith KC again appeared as leading counsel for our client before the Bermuda Court of Appeal, with international counsel Robin Lööf assisting. 

On March 20, the Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed the police’s appeal and confirmed the unlawfulness of the arrest of the physician and the search of his home. The ruling has implications for the interplay between arrests and consequent searches also in English law.

London partner Lord Goldsmith KC, Washington, D.C. partner David O’Neil, and London/Paris international counsel Robin Lööf continue to advise the successful physician as well as Dr. Brown in relation to the continuing police investigation.