The Lusaka High Court has awarded the family of the late Zambia Air Force (ZAF) flight sergeant Mark Choongwa over K3,000,000 as damages for loss of life.
Lusaka High Court deputy registrar K M Walubita has observed that police owe a duty of care to all people under their custody and nothing justifies brutality of that nature.
Choongwa’s administrators Chilala and Esther Choongwa had sued the Attorney General and six police officers; Chief Inspector Veronica Lucy Shawa, constables Mike Kapale and Mable Mwita, reserve constables Lyton Mwale, James Ngulube and Joseph Kasongo, seeking a declaration and order that the detention of the deceased was wholly unlawful.
They were further seeking damages for the unlawful deprivation of his life as a result of the defendants disproportionate and excessive use of force against the deceased, damages for loss of expectation of life and future earnings, among other claims.
Lusaka High Court deputy registrar has since, in her judgement on assessment dated November 11, awarded K3,300,000 to the deceased family for loss of life, funeral expenses, damages for dependency and exemplary damages.
She noted that it was not in dispute that the deceased died as a result of the injuries inflicted by the defendants whilst in their custody, adding that his estate was entitled to recover damages for loss of expectation of life and for funeral expenses.
Walubita awarded the plaintiffs damages for loss of life in the sum of K250,000 and K50,000 for funeral expenses.
She further awarded them another K3,000,000 for dependency and exemplary damages.
Walubita observed there was no need to have detained the deceased in the first place as the offence committed was minor one which could have just attracted a fine.
She added that furthermore, no justification had been shown to why the deceased would have been assaulted to the point of death.
“From the submissions, the deceased was 34 years old at the time of death and earning a net income of K6,200 per month. It was submitted that the position had prospects of promotion. The deceased was survived by a wife and infant children. Assuming the deceased would have worked up to 55 years he would have earned K6, 200 per month for another 21 years. Based on this, I award K 2,000,000 under this head,” Walubita said.
“The police owe a duty of care to all people under their custody and nothing justifies brutality of that nature. The behavior of the defendants warrants the award of exemplary damages and I accordingly award the plaintiff K1,000,000.”
Walubita said all damages awarded shall attract interest of the average short term deposit rate from the date of issue of writ until judgment, and thereafter, at the Bank of Zambia lending rate until payment.
She also awarded the plaintiffs costs to be taxed in default of agreement and granted leave to appeal.