Police guilty of beating woman
27 January 2021 | Crime
A high court judge awarded N$10 000 to a woman after he found that she was beaten in the face by a police officer during questioning in late 2017.
The award is a fraction of the N$100 000 lawsuit Penehafo Naholo sued the police for in early 2019.
Naholo accused the police of cruelly handcuffing her, and electrocuting and beating her in the aftermath of an armed robbery at her place of work.
Acting high court judge Collins Parker dismissed four of the five claims Naholo had sued the police for, due to a lack of evidence.
The resulting investigation found that Naholo was a girlfriend of one of the men who participated in the robbery at a gambling house in late 2017. However, she was never arrested or charged in connection with the incident.
Parker’s judgement said her asking for N$100 000 for all five claims meant, equally divided, each claim amounted to N$20 000.
The first claim dismissed by the court related to Neholo’s complaint that she was unlawfully arrested. Judge Parker however outlined that the claim could not be proven, because the plaintiff was never arrested, as she testified in court.
On the issue of unlawful detention, Parker said “not a wraith of evidence” was presented during the trial to prove this allegation. He added that the police acted within their rights to question her as a key witness to the armed robbery, including being the girlfriend of one of the accused robbers.
He rejected the claim that Naholo had been unconventionally handcuffed, repeating the absence of evidence to support this allegation.
On the claim that electric shocks were administered to her wrists during questioning, Parker relied on a doctor’s testimony that when he treated Naholo following the assault, she had not mentioned “such crucial information” of being electrocuted, and had only described the physical assault.
The only claim Parker was satisfied with that withstood the test of the trial, was the beating Naholo in the face.
He said he felt “it is safe and satisfactory to infer that, going upon a mere preponderance of probability, the plaintiff was assaulted on her face by a police official”.
He said the only claim that held water was the beating, an assault that was supported by bruising over her left cheek, but without resulting in any open wounds. “That is not to say that I overlook the fact that any unlawful assault should be condemned.”
He noted that based on the facts of the claims, “I think N$20 000 for the assault is exorbitant. In my judgement, an award of N$10 000 is reasonable and is capable of meeting the justice of the case.”
Parker also decided that each party in the case would pay their own costs, even though Naholo succeeded in only one of the five claims.
He said he took into account that the defendants were from government, and Naholo is an “ordinary, unemployed person who came to court to vindicate her rights. Such conduct by poor, ordinary persons should be encouraged in a constitutional state.”