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Court of Appeal slashes officer’s award to M50 000

Sello Morake

MASERU — A police officer who was last year awarded M200 000 in damages for unlawful arrest had to settle for far less on Friday after the Court of Appeal slashed the amount to M50 000.
Neo Rantjanyana had claimed that he was wrongfully arrested on August 28, 2003 and kept in custody without food for four days.
He was arrested for allegedly helping one Phakiso Molise, who was facing a charge of sedition, to escape from prison in 1997.
Court of Appeal president Justice Michael Ramodibedi, sitting with Justices Lionel Melunsky and Noel Victor Hurt, on Friday said the quantum of damages awarded by the High Court in respect to unlawful arrest, contumelia, pain and suffering was too high.
The Court of Appeal set aside the M200 000 award and substituted it with M50 000 in general damages.
It added that each party shall bear its own costs.
“At the hearing of the matter the appellants effectively admitted liability. They, however, contested the quantum of damages sought,” Justice Ramodibedi said.
“They did not lead any evidence at all. Instead, they elected to make submissions on quantum only.”
He said the High Court was however correct to say that there was no scale to assess the damages.
“There is no evidence on record to show that the respondent was subjected to pain and suffering. He was not assaulted.
“Instead, his claim on his head was premised on the fact that he was suffering from pneumonia since 1997.
“Doing the best I can in the foregoing circumstances I consider that the best interests of justice would be served by awarding general damages to the respondents in the sum of M50 000.
“As can be seen, there is a striking disparity between the amount which I would have awarded and the award made by the trial court,” Justice Ramodibedi said.
Rantjanyana had initially claimed M200 000 for unlawful arrest, M200 000 for contumelia and M100 000 for pain and suffering but the High Court awarded him M200 000.

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