By Nat Molomo
MASERU — The High Court has awarded M40 000 in damages to a taxi driver who was suing the commissioner of police for unlawful arrest and detention.
Sekhosana Kalaile was demanding M300 000 for unlawful arrest, unlawful detention and malicious prosecution.
Kalaile was arrested by two police officers in Maputsoe in Leribe district on March 29, 2009 for committing a traffic offence.
He was charged with breaching section 70 (6) (j) (10) of the Road Traffic Act 1981.
The police officers accused Kalaile of parking his vehicle dangerously in the road and blocking other road users.
In her judgment on Friday, Justice Lisebo Chaka-Makhooane said the behaviour of the police who arrested Kalaile had a malicious ring to it.
“The plaintiff had either committed an offence or not. In my mind these were mind games played by the police officers,” she said.
She said the two officers had failed to introduce themselves as police officers as they were not in uniform.
“It appears also that the police officers took plaintiff’s cell phone and car keys and left his taxi unattended,” she said.
On the way to the police charge office the two officers had attempted to hand over the complainant’s cell phone and keys but he refused.
Kalaile was then re-arrested and taken to Maputsoe police station where he was detained and charged for violating traffic rules.
The court heard that Kalaile was kept in police custody from March 29 to 31, 2009 when he was taken to court for trial where he was acquitted.
“One wonders if indeed plaintiff had actually committed an offence at the time or the police officers were flexing their muscles,” Justice Chaka-Makhoane said.
“One minute they were arresting plaintiff, the next they wanted him to show remorse by accepting the property they had seized from him and when he refuses, he now definitely faces arrest and detention,” she said.
“Having found that the plaintiff has made out a case for unlawful arrest, unlawful detention, malicious arrest the following order is made, his claim against defendants succeeds,” she said.
“A fair award in this regard would be a total of M40 000 in damages.”
The judge said his arrest, detention and ultimate prosecution were malicious and totally unnecessary.
She added that although Kalaile was not tortured during his detention “he was nevertheless exposed to an infringement of his dignity”.
The judge added that there was no evidence that the police officers informed Kalaile the reason for his arrest.
“I must in all fairness on the preponderance of probabilities believe the plaintiff’s version is true and it is believed by this court,” she said.
Advocate Molise Molise from Molati Chambers appeared for Kalaile. Advocates Mafefooane Moshoeshoe and Makhele Sekati appeared for defendants.