By BEVERLY PETER
THE National Court in Waigani yesterday ruled that police had unlawfully destroyed properties during a raid in Wabag’s Waem Village about 20 years ago.
Justice Ere Kariko said the State was accountable and ordered it to pay K133,536 in damages for the damage caused on Sept 4, 2001.
“There is no doubt the police raid resulted in losses to the villagers,” Justice Kariko said.
“The former commander of police mobile squad five and six, Simon Yagari, and his squad unlawfully destroyed properties.
“The police commissioner is not vicariously accountable for the unlawful conduct of Yagari.
“The State is accountable.”
Ben Komae, Jeff Lita, Tapukali Lita, Yas Lakain, Richard Aipi, David Timon, Paulus Paliro, William Robert and Andrew Malipu claimed a total K247,216.25 in compensation.
“The plaintiffs suffered losses but their claims are based on two basic evidence – photographs claimed to have been taken of the remains of the burnt houses and the victims’ statements stating what they lost.”
Justice Kariko reduced of the K247,216.2 claim to K133,536, saying though they had lost their property, there was no proper corroboration of the property and values which were said to have lost.
“The victims have claimed K5,000 to K10,000 for their general damage in the sense of pain and suffering which I find no medical evidence to prove their claim.
“My ruling is guided by the principles endorsed by Supreme Court in the case of William Mel versus Colemen Pakalia:
- PLAINTIFF has the duty to provide his/her loss on the balance of probabilities;
- CORROBORATION of a claim from an independent source is required;
- THE principals of proof and corroboration apply even when the defendant fails to present any evidence disputing the claim.;
- THE fact that damages cannot be assessed with certainty does not relieve the wrongdoer of the requirement of paying damage. The court must have whatever little evidence available and be on alert for any false claims; and
- THE court must be alert to vague claims, unsupported by corroborating evidence as they might be false.
Justice Kariko also provided a schedule on which the state was to pay the victims and said, the proceeding was to be paid on party-party basis.