LAW REPORT FOR NON-LAWYERS ON OFFENCE OF FAILURE TO STOP AT A POLICE CHECK POINT FOR ROUTINE CHECKS
CASE OF THE WEEK: CORPORAL DESMOND ONONUJU V THE STATE (2014) 23 JMLR 17
- Nature of the offence of failure to stop at a police checkpoint for routine checks
- When the use of deadly force by the police against a suspect will be excused
FACTS OF THE CASE
The deceased Mr Christain Owerreoma, in 2002 was travelling with his brother in-law when they arrived at a police check point along Ohi Road Junction by Mgbidi in Imo State. According to the policemen, instead of stopping for routine checks, the deceased and his brother in-law sped off. Shortly afterwards, the policemen entered their jeep and pursued them. As the duo were approaching the next checkpoint which was manned by another set of mobile police men, one of the policemen in pursuit, inspector Uwadiegwu raised an alarm that the deceased and his brother in-law were thieves the rest of the policemen including the accused, corporal Ononuju began to shoot at the deceased’s car which prompted the mobile policemen on the second check point to start shooting at the deceased’s car.
The deceased and his brother in-law were severely wounded and taken to a nearby hospital were the deceased was pronounced dead.
The policemen at their trial were of the defence that they had thought the deceased and his brother in-law were armed robbers, since they refused to stop their car at the regular check point for routine checks. They all denied shooting at the deceased’s car.
At the conclusion of the trial at the High Court, the trial judge discharged some of the police men but convicted and sentenced to death Corporal Ononuju and two other policemen. Corporal Ononuju dissatisfied with his conviction, appealed to the court of appeal. The court of appeal refused and dismissed his appeal. Still not satisfied, he further appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court held as follows:
That Failure to stop at a police check point for routine checks is a misdemeanor.(a misdemeanor is a type of offence declared by law to be a misdemeanor an example is the offence mentioned of in this case “failing to stop at a police check point”.
It is punishable by imprisonment for not less than six months but less than three years i.e 6 months – 2years 11months but it is definitely not punishable by death or police brutality).
That a policeman can only resort to an extreme measure of killing a suspect where his own life is in real danger and he has to resort to such an excessive use of force to save himself or to prevent the suspect from trying to kill someone else or where the suspect is killed to save another person or where a suspect having committed a felonious crime is fleeing from the scene of the crime and he is killed to abort his escape
Ugonma Dozie ( Pro-bono partner ) 08186730988