Dec 11, 2018 News
By Feona Morrison
Donna Sulker, the mother, of the now deceased Dameon Belgrave, who was shot and killed by police in October 2012, has been awarded judgment to the tune of $21,970,000, along with court costs, after Justice Sandil Kissoon ruled in favour of a lawsuit that she had filed against the State.
In the court action, the mother, through her Attorney-at-law Nigel Hughes, sued the State for (a) the wrongful death of her son, (b) breach of his fundamental right under Article 138 of the Constitution of Guyana, not to be deprived of his life intentionally, and for (c) assault and battery. She further asked the court to grant (d) exemplary damages, (e) costs, (f) interest and (g) such further or other order as seem just by the court.
According to facts divulged in court, Belgrave, who was age 21, was shot and killed by police ranks Sheldon Williams and Eric Williams, who according to Justice Kissoon, recklessly discharged AK 47 rifles.
Giving a summation of the evidence, Justice Kissoon said that on October 05, 2012 at around 18:30hrs, Belgrave went with friends to the White Castle Fish Shop at John and Hadfield Streets, Georgetown, where a vehicle that they were in was parked on the northern carriageway of Hadfield Street.
Belgrave and his friends exited the vehicle and began enjoying the services offered by the White Castle Fish Shop. It was revealed that both police ranks, who were part of a mobile patrol and armed, began discharging rounds recklessly in an attempt to intercept the occupants of a motorcar that they had been trailing.
Belgrave, who was described as an innocent bystander by Justice Kissoon, was shot and later died at the Georgetown Public Hospital. The State was represented by the Attorney General’s Chambers.
In his ruling, Justice Kissoon described the actions of the police ranks as negligent and callous, while noting that the evidence against the State was strong, cogent and compelling. The judge highlighted that Belgrave was shot at an urban, popular business area, which was at the time, densely crowded.
According to Justice Kissoon, after reviewing the evidence of several witnesses, including police ranks, who were called to testify, negligence on the part of the two ranks cannot be denied. The State was ordered by the Court to pay Sulker $250,000 in special damages to offset funeral expenses.
The State was further ordered to pay $15M in damages to the mother for breach of her son’s fundamental right under Article 138 of the Constitution of Guyana, not to be deprived of his life intentionally, that which was declared by Justice Kissoon.
Furthermore, the State was order to pay the woman $1M in general damages—plus $1,040,000 for pretrial loss and $4,680,000 for post trial loss—which amounts to a total of $6,720,000—which was awarded for loss of dependency. The mother was also granted Court costs to the tune of $300,000.
Justice Kissoon ordered that damages be paid at a rate of 6% per annum from the time of Belgrave’s death until judgment was handed down (yesterday), and thereafter at a rate of 4% per annum until the monies are fully paid.
In arriving at a payment for loss of dependency, several factors were considered by the Court. For one, the Court considered that at the time of his demise, Belgrave was a volunteer at the Cheddi Jagan Dental School from where he received a stipend.
The events leading to Belgrave’s death were strongly condemned by the Court. Three months after Belgrave’s killing, the cops were charged with manslaughter and granted $250,000 bail each. The charge against the cops was discharged during the preliminary inquiry stage in 2013.
In her Statement of Claim, Sulker contended that there were no lawful circumstances to justify the shooting of her son. Outlining negligence on part of the police ranks, among other things, the mother argued, (a) that live ammunition was discharged in a public place, (b) that the police ranks failed to see or observe the plaintiff (Belgrave) on the said road, and (c) that the ranks discharged live ammunition in a public place of entertainment.
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