Errant cops to personally pay legal suit

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Roland Routh

Windhoek-Judge Thomas Masuku found two police officers guilty of abusing their powers and on Monday ordered them to pay the cost of the matter on an attorney and client scale.

The two were found guilty of repeatedly arresting, shooting at the plaintiff and illegally impounding his vehicle after he reported a case of burglary at his bar in Katutura to the police.
Judge Masuku found in September this year that the officers were guilty of “seriously abusing the powers given to them by law in good faith”.

Police Sergeant Freddy Nghilinganye, and reservist Sackey Kokule subjected bar owner, Benhardt Lazarus, to harassment, depravation of his liberty and his possessions after repeatedly arresting him for no reason.
Judge Masuku awarded Lazarus N$417 000 in damages being N$300 000 over the violation of his constitutional rights, N$27 000 for the loss of the money in the vehicle that was impounded, and N$90 000 for lost earnings that he suffered when he was left without a vehicle for seven months.

The judge also ordered Nghilinganye and Kokule to show cause why they should not be ordered to pay the costs of the suit, as they were the ones responsible for the despicable behaviour. He said while the officers were aware of the court order, they chose not to make any submissions, neither did the government against whom the original lawsuit was brought.

According to Judge Masuku, public officials who act in bad faith during the exercise of their official duties, may in appropriate cases, be ordered to personally pay the costs attendant to the case, where they have departed from the paths of virtue expected of their offices.

Further, the court found that on the facts, the officers behaved in a depraved manner and had abused their official powers in a way that violated the plaintiff’s human rights and freedoms. For that reason, the court found that a punitive cost order was called for.

He further said he found it imperative to underscore the need by all persons in this Republic, particularly those who wield and exercise public power, that in their dealings, and without exception, the foundational principles and ethos of the Constitution must shine through and inform their motivations, actions and decisions.

“It is my fervent hope that our Constitution, which is more than 25 years old now, should find a special place, meaning and application in the hearts and minds of all who live in this Republic. To those who exercise public power, in particular, it should serve as an eternal compass of the permissible and impermissible terrain to traverse: the right and the wrong; the praiseworthy and the despicable. It should on no account, be relegated to the backseat or pushed to the periphery. It should remain central and dominant in the minds, hearts and actions of all, police officers expressly included. If need be, and to those otherwise inclined, it shall be made a constant irritant, like a mosquito yearning for fresh blood as the potential victim drifts in and out of sleep,” Judge Masuku emphasised.
Lazarus was represented by Loini Shikale.

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