Court awards RM357,500 to widow over husband’s death in police custody

Jan 9, 2017
Kuala Lumpur High Court.
Kuala Lumpur High Court.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court today awarded RM357,500 in damages to a widow, whose husband died in police custody in 2012, ruling that his death was due to police’s negligence.

Judge S.Nantha Balan also ordered all the defendants including the Inspector-General of Police at that time, the government of Malaysia and five police officers to pay RM50,000 in costs to the widow, N.Selvi, 46, and her daughter C.Rita, 23.

In his 86-page judgment, Justice Nantha held that the defendants had breached their duty of care owed to the deceased, P.Chandran, 47, who was detained by police on suspicion of being involved in an abduction case of a newborn baby.

He said the deceased’s death was due to the defendants’ negligence in failing to send him to the hospital for treatment in circumstances where it was apparent that he was not behaving normally and where the police were already informed that he was unwell and required medical attention.

“I am of the view that liability for negligence (by omission) and public misfeasance has been established against the defendants,” he said.

The judge said he completely agreed with the verdict of the coroner that the deceased had died needlessly and his death could have been averted had the police performed their duties and responsibilities.

He further said if the officers on patrol duty and those monitoring the CCTV cameras at the Dang Wangi district police headquarters had done their job, they would have observed that there was something not quite right with the deceased, especially in the early morning of Sept 10, 2012.

Justice Nantha said they should have taken steps to intervene and send the deceased to hospital but it appeared that everyone who had a duty to look after the detainees according to Lock-Up Rules 1953, had abdicated their responsibilities and washed their hands off the matter.

“I found that there was hardly any or any credible evidence to show that the Lock-Up Rules 1953 had been complied with,” he said, adding that the death of the deceased in these circumstances was regrettable and lamentable and by all accounts, it was an avoidable death.

“It is just that neither the third defence witness (police officer) nor the police personnel bothered to take the necessary steps to send the deceased to the hospital,” the judge said.

Justice Nantha also said that it was established during the trial that no action was taken against any of the police officers arising out of the deceased’s death.

The judge awarded both plaintiffs Selvi and Rita, RM200,000 in exemplary damages, loss of dependency RM144,000, RM10,000 for bereavement and RM3,500 in special damages.

In September 2015, both plaintiffs had filed the suit against the seven defendants, claiming that the death of the deceased was caused by the defendants’ negligence and that their conduct amounted to public misfeasance and breach of the deceased’s constitutional rights.

On Jan 16, 2015, coroner Ahmad Bache (now Judicial Commissioner of the High Court) who heard the inquest into the deceased’s death, ruled that it was the result of the police’s negligence. – Bernama