British woman arrested over ‘Buddha’ tattoo to be compensated

The Supreme Court today ordered to pay compensation and legal fees amounting to Rs 800,000 to the British tourist who was arrested in Sri Lanka because she had a ‘Buddha’ tattoo on her arm.

The court ruled that the police had violated the fundamental rights by arresting and detaining the British national over her tattoo depicting an image of Lord Buddha.

The Supreme Court ordered the government to pay Rs 500,000 as compensation and Rs 200,000 as legal fees to Naomi Coleman, a 40-year-old mental health nurse from Coventry, England.

In addition to that, the court also ordered the police officer, who was the then OIC of the Katunayake Police, and a Sergeant of that police station to each pay Rs 50,000 to the British woman from their personal funds.

The verdict was delivered by Justice Anil Gunaratne with the agreement of Justices Eva Wanasundara and Naleen Perera.

In her fundamental rights petition, the British woman had said that she visited Sri Lanka as a tourist on April 21, 2014 and that she was arrested at the Katunayake airport by police because of the tattoo on her left arm.

She had sought a court verdict stating that the police had violated her fundamental rights by arresting and detaining her without any justifiable reason.

She told police she practised Buddhism and had attended meditation retreats and workshops in Thailand, India, Cambodia and Nepal.