Police sued for $1million

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia and Deidre Fanene 03 July 2016, 12:00AM

A member of the public who was arrested at gunpoint at the Fugalei market last year is taking legal action against the Ministry of Police. 

Suitupe Misa has filed a $1million lawsuit against the first defendant, the Minister of Police, Sala Fata Pinati, second defendant the Commissioner of Police, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil and the Ministry of Police as the third defendant. 

The Attorney General is being sued on behalf of the Minister and the Ministry of Police. 

The Commissioner was contacted through his secretary for a comment on Friday. 

She said the Commissioner will be informed and will return a call if he wishes to comment. She did not return the call as of yesterday. 

According to a document obtained by the Sunday Samoan, Mr. Misa is suing the Minister of Police for a breach of statutory duty. 

In the statement of claim, the plaintiff argues that the first defendant breached his duty under section 13 (3) of the Police Powers Act. 

In particular, Sala is accused of failing to consider any exceptional circumstances to establish whether or not a police officer(s) ought to be armed when the police arrested the plaintiff. 

The second cause of action against the Commissioner is an alleged abuse of process. 

“The second defendant received information from the first defendant that a person by the name of Suitupe apparently made threats to kill the first and second defendants, and other senior government officials (alleged threat),” says the statement of claim.

“The first defendant had also informed the second defendant of a witness who may verify the alleged threat. The second defendant however failed to verify the reliability of the alleged threat through direct enquiry with the witness referred to. 

“The second defendant could have easily found out the truth regarding the alleged threat if he had made reasonable enquiries with the witness.  The second defendant used and relied on the apparent validity of the Minister’s approval by ordering certain police officers including Officer Iosefa to be armed and to arrest the plaintiff upon confirmation of the plaintiff’s presence at the market.”

Fuiavailiili is accused of using the legal process in order to accomplish an ulterior purpose of oppression against the plaintiff. 

Mr. Misa claims that the Commissioner abused the process to effect an improper purpose. 

The third cause of action is against the third defendant or the Ministry of Police for unlawful arrest and unlawful detention. 

“Accordingly the plaintiff’s detention was unlawful,” said the statement of claim. 

“That the plaintiff’s unlawful arrest and unlawful detention deprived the plaintiff of his personal liberty, and the third defendant therefore breached the plaintiff’s right to liberty under Article 6 of the Constitution.”

Lastly, the fourth cause of action is against the Ministry of police for unlawful search. 

The statement of claim pointed out that the circumstances under which the relevant police officers carried out the said searches did not justify an immediate search or a search without a warrant. 

“The plaintiff was not committing any offence at the time of the searches,” the statement of claim stated. 

“There was no reasonable ground to believe that the plaintiff was in possession of any narcotics or any other drugs or any dangerous weapon.

That the police officers who searched the plaintiff’s poloka and taxi did not identify themselves to the plaintiff or Catherine or any other person operating the nearby poloka in the market, nor was any reference made to an authority used by the said police officers to carry out a search without a warrant.”

Furthermore the statement highlighted that as a result of the first defendant’s breach of stator duty, the second defendant’s abuse of process, the third defendant’s unlawful arrest and unlawful detention of the plaintiff and the third defendant’s unlawful search of the plaintiff, Mr. Misa ha susffered damages. 

In particular, the plaintiff has suffered injury to liberty, injury to feelings, dignity and mental suffering, disgrace and humiliation.

Mr. Misa also claims he had suffered temporary confusion and shame experienced, temporary loss of physical comfort for a period of 2 to 3hours from the time of the unlawful arrest until released at the Main police station. 

In addition the plaintiff is also seeking damages for distress, anger, anxiety and uncertainty associated with his unlawful detention. 

The plaintiff seeks against the first, second and third defendants jointly and severally global award in the sum of $1,050,370.00 tala. 

General damages in the sum of $300,000tala, aggravated and punitive damages in the sum of $750,000tala special damages of $370tala. 

The matter will be called again in the Supreme Court on 8 August 2016. 

By Lanuola Tusani Tupufia and Deidre Fanene 03 July 2016, 12:00AM

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