Loveness Chiriseni, a victim of an accidental police shooting incident at a roadblock along Seke Road in Chitungwiza two years ago has been awarded over US$16 000 in damages in a civil lawsuit.
Chiriseni had sought a claim for compensation at the High Court after she was shot and injured by a policeman who was trying to stop the driver of an unregistered vehicle from fleeing the law enforcement agents at a roadblock on August 19, 2018.
She claimed a combined US$16 788 for special damages for hospital and medical expenses, general damages for disfigurement, pain and suffering and loss of amenities to life.
The woman was the only one that was shot in the vehicle after the driver, Lloyd Sibanda, lost control on hearing the first gun-shot. Chiriseni, who was sitting in the front passenger seat was caught by the second shot after the bullet ricocheted from the vehicle and hit her on her right buttock.
The Commissioner-General of Police, Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage and the Officer-in-Charge at St Mary’s police station all listed as respondents, were contesting Chiriseni’s claim.
Following advice from their legal counsel, the respondents abandoned the challenge to liability on the day of the trial. Both parties then agreed to have the matter proceed to trial on the question of the quantum of damages only.
Chiriseni’s presentation of her claim, backed by documentary evidence which could not be controverted, convinced Justice Edith Mushore to grant her the award she sought.
The judge also took a judicial notice of the reasonableness of Chiriseni lawyer’s monetary claims under the various heads of damages filed with the court.
“I have no doubt that the respondents would have had no difficulty coming to a settlement of this court action because the amounts claimed by the plaintiff are reasonable and justifiable when compared to the comparative cases cited by the plaintiff,” said Justice Mushore.
Chiriseni, said Justice Mushore, was just a passenger in a vehicle thus the policeman had no basis in terms of the Constitutional provisions to fire a weapon at a civilian target.
She said if it was his intention to stop the driver from proceeding through the roadblock, the policeman should have fired a warning shot into the air. The court found that there was no need to fire a second shot when the vehicle had veered off the road.
This, said Justice Mushore, should have motivated the police officer to prevent the potential loss of lives occurring from a car accident.
“By firing a second shot at the vehicle, which was not able to breach the roadblock because the driver lost control, the police officer deployed unbridled excessive force that was not justifiable and thus failed to exercise his Constitutionally imposed duty of care that he owed to the plaintiff,” she said.
Chirsieni’s lawyer argued that the police officer who shot her client applied excessive force and that the officer’s right was exercised in an overzealous and questionable manner.