$1 m. lawsuit against armed Police in Court

By Deidre Tautua-Fanene ,

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Suitupe Misa.

Suitupe Misa.

A hearing date has been set for the matter between Suitupe Misa and the Office of the Attorney General.

Misa is a member of the public who was arrested at gunpoint by a contingent of armed Police officers in 2015. He is suing the Ministry of Police for $1million tala.

On Monday, this matter was called again for mention before Chief Justice Patu Tiavasue Falefatu Sapolu in the Supreme Court.

Misa is represented by lawyer Seuamuli Sarona Ponifasio. She told the court the matter was originally set for hearing this month.

“Your honor, this matter was set down for special fixture for three days on the week commencing the 24th of September,” she said.

“However, given an advice by your honor that the court does not have a sitting during that week, we approached the registrar to place the matter for mention so we can have a new hearing date.”

 Prosecution Sefo Ainuu of the Attorney General’s Office confirmed this saying they have an available date from November 26.

 “Your honor if we could set this matter as a special fixture for three days,” Seuamuli said.

Chief Justice Patu granted the application. 

“This matter is adjourned for hearing as a special fixture the week commencing November 26-28.”

In the year 2016, Mr. Misa lodged a complaint against the Ministry of Police where the matter was then investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The findings of the investigation at the time raised serious questions about the actions of the Police and the Commissioner.

 “The Commissioner of Police failed to meet basic investigation principles and placed undue consideration on second hand evidence, leading directly to the wrongful and unlawful arrest of Suitupe,” one the report’s findings read.

 “The Commissioner’s decision to arm and allow the use of firearms by his officers contravened the Use of Force policy, was irresponsible, and could negatively impact the overall safety and security within Samoa.

“The Commissioner failed to take appropriate steps to identify the actions of his officers as being part of a police operation, leading to widespread distress and in one case serious health issues.”

The investigation also found that the Commissioner “does not have an understanding of the basic laws regarding arrest and detention in Samoa”.

Incidentally, the report says the arrest was “unlawful and improperly undertaken and therefore violated his fundamental human right to liberty”. 

According to the Ombudsman, the findings clearly demonstrate a series of errors of judgment and unlawful actions that are nowhere near what we should be able to expect from our Police force.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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