State to pay $10 million for death of JDF soldier

Published: Monday | December 14, 2009

Barbara Gayle, Staff Reporter

The government is to pay $10 million in damages to the estate of 44-year-old Jamaica Defence Force Corporal Errol Campbell who was shot and killed by the police in April 1999.

Campbell was shot while playing football with other community members on the playing field at the community centre in Seaview Gardens, St Andrew.

Supreme Court Judge Jennifer Straw, in handing down judgment, said it was her finding that the police station was never under attack from gunmen. She said the deceased did not have a firearm, nor did he discharge one.

The defendants' case was that the police station came under attack from gunmen who opened fire from several directions and, at the end of the shooting, the deceased was discovered suffering from a gunshot injury. The defence contended that elevated levels of gun powder residue were found on the deceased's hands and, in all the circumstances, the police were justified in discharging their firearms.

Attorneys-at-law Manley Nich-olson and Oswest Senior Smith represented the Administrator General who brought the negligence suit on behalf of the estate of the deceased. Campbell was fatally shot on April 20, 1999, and succumbed to his injuries the following day.

Breach of duty

Campbell's widow and two of his three children are the beneficiaries of his estate because they were dependent on him for support.

The judge said in her written judgment that the duty of care which the police owed to the citizens was breached when a police officer at the Seaview Gardens Police Station discharged a firearm in a negligent manner in the direction of the Seaview Gardens community centre.

The Attorney General and Constable Jason Bennett were the defendants as it was alleged that Bennett fired the fatal shot. The judge, after hearing evidence in the suit, said the Government was liable even though the specific agent of the Crown who discharged the fatal bullet was not identified.

Evidence was given that Bennett and other policemen were dispatched to the Seaview Gardens Police Station as a result of an upheaval in the area that day.

The deceased, who was involved in sporting activities, was with several youngsters on the playing field at the community centre.

Armed policemen dressed in blue denim were across the road from the community centre.

Witnesses said shots were fired and the deceased and the youngsters took refuge behind the concrete columns at the community centre. The deceased, who was unarmed, ventured from behind the column to tell the police that he was a soldier and was shot.

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