Damages boost for hurt officer

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 December, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 December, 1994, 12:00am

A FORMER policeman who suffered brain damage after being accidentally shot with a plastic bullet during a training session had his damages award almost doubled on appeal yesterday.

The Court of Appeal held that the amount awarded to former constable Chun Chun-nam, 35, should be increased by 85 per cent - from $330,000 to $650,000 - to reflect inflation since 1988 when the guidelines were last reviewed.

The court also set down fresh guidelines which nearly doubled the old level of payments to take account of inflation.

The case was adjourned to January 27 for the judgment to be finalised.

The court also held that Mr Chun was entitled to damages for loss of future earnings, the amount to be calculated later.

It heard that Mr Chun was attached to the police Special Duties Unit, an elite section trained in counter-terrorist activities.

On February 4, 1987, he was playing the role of a terrorist in a training exercise.

Firearms were used which were supposed to be loaded with blank cartridges, but at least one plastic bullet was negligently issued to an officer who fired it and hit Mr Chun in the chest, the court heard.

Mr Chun was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital where he remained in a coma for 12 days. As a result of the injury, he suffered brain damage.

Liability was not in dispute, and in May this year, Master Jennings awarded Mr Chun $330,000 for pain, suffering and loss of amenities.

However, the Commissioner of Police lodged an appeal, contending that Master Jennings erred in ruling that Mr Chun was entitled to leave the force in January 1992 and to damages for loss of future earnings.

It was argued that since the force was prepared to offer Mr Chun light duties, it was unreasonable for him to take voluntary retirement and therefore he was not entitled to damages for loss of earnings.

The Commissioner's appeal, however, was dismissed by the Appeal Court.

Delivering judgment yesterday, Mr Justice Penlington, sitting with Mr Justice Nazareth and Mr Justice Litton, considered that this was a case of 'gross disability'.

The accident had, he said, apart from loss of motor control, clearly caused serious mental disability and a marked behavioural change in Mr Chun.

He was also satisfied that the end of a meaningful career with the police force was a very substantial loss.

The court heard that the guidelines for such damage awards were last reviewed in 1988.

Mr Justice Penlington held that the general level of awards should therefore be increased by 85 per cent to reflect inflation.