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Father, son win suit against unlawful arrest

2023-07-14  Roland Routh

Father, son win suit against unlawful arrest

A father and his minor son who were arrested and overnighted at the Okahao police station won a lawsuit they instituted against the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security.

Oshakati High Court Judge David Munsu awarded Jannus Haukongo and his minor son damages to the tune of N$35 000 for unlawful arrest, detention and mental anguish.

The minor was awarded N$15 000 for unlawful arrest and detention and N$10 000 for pain and suffering; while his father received N$10 000 for mental anguish and distress. The judge further ordered the ministry to pay the legal costs of the suit.

The matter arises from an incident in December 2020 when the police arrested the minor, who was nine years old at the time, together with four other persons who were suspected of committing a crime in the Erongo region. 

While the ministry claimed that they informed the minor’s relatives about his whereabout and where to pick him up, nobody showed up, and only arrived the next day to pick him up. 

The ministry further claims that because of this, they decided to keep him at the police station for his own safety. 

The father, on the other hand, claimed that the police never informed them, despite a request by the minor and the arrested suspects. 

He further said had the police intended to release the minor, they could have asked him to direct them to his residence. 

Haukongo also argued that the mother of the minor was only informed the next morning, and she immediately directed family members to pick him up. 

The father of the minor instituted a claim for mental anguish, as he said he spent a sleepless night worrying about his son’s whereabouts and safety.

The judge found indisputable evidence that the minor knew the direction to his grandmother’s house, and that if only the police had bothered to take him there, he would have been able to direct them. 

He further said that the minor’s movements on that day were dependent on his elder relatives, with whom he was travelling. 

“The detention by the police of the relatives he was travelling with and his confinement, for the night, to one of the rooms at the police station, deprived him of his liberty,” the judge stated.

Judge Munsu continued: “It matters not that the defendant claims that the first plaintiff (the minor) and his relatives were not arrested. The fact of the matter is that they were detained by the police during 3 to 4 December 2020.” 

In the present instance, the judge said, the evidence points inexorably to the conclusion that the minor was deprived of his liberty by the police officials, who are de facto members of the ministry, and that his detention was unlawful. 

With regards to the compensation demanded, the judge said while the plaintiffs wanted N$100 000 in damages for the minor and N$60 000 for the father, the detention was for only one night. 

While he is mindful that the matter involves a minor, which is an aggravating factor, he does not consider the damages suffered to be in the region of their demands.


2023-07-14  Roland Routh

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