Home > Corruption, Human rights, Papua New Guinea > Court leniency on rogue officer fuels the fire of police brutality

Court leniency on rogue officer fuels the fire of police brutality

January 31, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

police guns

Anyone on the street knows, when you see an RPNGC officer, you smile and submit. With luck they won’t give you trouble. If they do, who knows where it will end up. For one unlucky girl it concluded with a scene of humiliation, where she was forced to eat a condom.

But what are they Courts doing to crack down on police violence? Very little.

A sad example of this is the recent case of State v Akia [2015].

The victim had been taken into custody by police, after they were accused of sorcery.

The National Court outlines the brutal, unprovoked attack the victim then endured, at the hands of  a 37 year old police officer:

‘At the Wet Crossing at Hohorita, the accused [RPNGC officer] stopped the vehicle and ordered the victim to get out of the vehicle and go and have his bath in the river. The victim obeyed, alighted and went into the river and had his bath as ordered. The accused then got an A2 assault Rifle, aimed it at the victim and shot him on his right foot causing him bodily harm. He then ordered the victim to get back into the vehicle and they continued on to the Popondetta Police Station where they placed him in the cells with his injuries. The victim later discovered by another officer who then took him to the hospital for treatment’.

The disgraced police officer, petitioned the National Court for leniency, arguing he had paid K10,000 in compensation to the victim, and a further K5,000 in foodstuffs.

Incredibly both the defence and prosecution agreed a three year suspended sentence would be appropriate. A suspended sentence in effect means while a custodial sentence is given, providing the offender commits to good behaviour, they never have to actually spend any time in prison.

In his decision, the Judge rightly drew attention to certain aggravating factors that considerably added to the seriousness of the case. Namely, the police officer was entrusted to uphold the law. However, rather than upholding the law, he employed his legal powers to commit a brutal crime against a vulnerable victim, who had done nothing wrong. This act was part of a broader wave of police criminality that is now an urgent public policy issue.

Toliken AJ observes in his sentencing decision:

‘Police brutality of late has been such that citizens are now wondering out loudly who will protect them from law breakers when certain members of the police force are increasingly becoming lawless themselves. It is as if the law enforcers have given up trying to uphold the law so much so that they now feel that if you can’t beat the criminals, join them and become criminals too.’

As a result, the learned Judge states:

‘This case, therefore, calls for a strong punitive sentence which will and must deter the prisoner and like- minded colleagues of his’.

Members of the public might conclude the maximum penalty was opted for, 7 years imprisonment. Yet it wasn’t. The offender was released on a suspended sentence. For punishment, the police officer was merely ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid community work.

Its hard to see how this is either commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, or indeed a deterrent decision. Remember, we are talking here of a police officer that shot an unarmed civilian, who had done nothing wrong, and fully complied with all orders.

Sadly it appears when the powerful break the law, the Court goes out of its way to deliver leniency, leaving prisons stocked with the poor and powerless, who have neither the money or the prestige to escape punishment.

A two tier legal system is emerging, that will only serve to erode public confidence in the administration of justice.

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