ComPol Reacts to Judgment Against BPD
Earlier in the month, we reported on the judgment handed down by the High Court of Belize against six police officers, the Belize Police Department and the Government. The Cantun family in Corozal successfully sued the department, after Justice Patricia Farnese found that police officers Roje Espinosa, Adrian Williams, Glendale Ramos, David Grajalez, Zamir Noh, and John Sanchez abused the rights of members of the Cantun family when they conducted an illegal search. During the search, family members were abused. The court ruled the defendants pay each claimant $14,000 in general damages. Justice Farnese also ruled that Defendants pay $67,500 to the Legal Advice and Service Center of Belize for exemplary damages. She explained that this is to fund litigation on behalf of the very poor or indigent who wish to bring an action for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, or assault by a member of the Belize Police Department. Reacting to the ruling today was Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “I don’t know if it’s a landmark case because they didn’t get not even half of what they wanted. The quantum was significantly reduced by the court during trial because in the pretrial stage where we were at the mediation they wanted I think half a million dollars they didn’t get even half of that so while yes it is a win for them it can also be a win for us because the quantum that they wanted was not awarded. Nonetheless as I’ve said before that we must do better to ensure that we do not get to these situations where the state has to be paying out large sums of money for the actions of police officers. Yes there are certain situations that will certainly happen that we’ll not be able to get ourselves out of but where we can do certain things to ensure that it does not occur we must and that is something we have been looking at and I’m happy to say that over the years we have reduced tremendously the amount of complaints against the police. So we’re making inroads, we’re not where we want to be yet but we’re hoping that we can continue to make inroads into that aspect of our work.”
Reporter: Okay so as part of the ruling the judgment ruled that each defendant must pay each claimant a certain amount of money including the five or six police officers so who pays on their part ? Is it the police department ? Is it the state of their own money ?
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “The police officers or the defendants are agents of the state and by virtue of that and the fact that the court found that they were acting in the scope of their duties when the incident occurred then the state is going to be liable to pay the amount that the court has ordered.”