Thursday, September 28, 2023

High Court orders release of police helicopter crash report to family members

The Minister of Transport and Communications Tshenolo Mabeo has been instructed by the Gaborone High Court to release a confidential report on the findings of circumstances surrounding the crash of Botswana Police Service helicopter that claimed lives of three crew members.

The crash incident happened about two years ago.

Minister Mabeo had tried to resist favouring victims’ families saying the report was privileged.

The High Court however did not believe this.

This followed an application by family members of the crash victims.

However the defense counsel Malcom Gobhoza says though they are happy with the judgment  there is highly possibility that the report might come out doctored as the High Court has ordered the names of the witnesses to be reducted from the report.`

Delivering the judgment last week Thursday justice Abednego Tafa ordered that the six respondents, Botswana Police Service, Ministry of Transport and Communications, Directorate of Accident and Investigation, Director of Accident, Attorney General as well as the Civil Aviation authority of Botswana should produce and    make available to  the  applicants within fourteen (14) days from the date of judgment, all  of the material which is in their position that includes statements taken from the persons by   the   accident investigators in  the course of their investigation pertaining to a  police  helicopter, Cockpit   voice   recordings    and transcripts, all meteorological     records     and information  of    Gumare   to    Maun (Okavango   Delta)   region  from   19th April 2014 up  to 24th April 2014 and records of flight plan.

“I would like to deal with the   applicants’ demand for the production of the police report.  It   is   the applicants’ case so they have a legitimate  expectation  that they would be  furnished with a  police report,” said Justice Tafa.

He stated that    the expectation emanates from an undertaking by the police that relatives would be    issued with the police report after    investigations are concluded.

“According to the judge, the letter by Botswana Police created in the applicants, a legitimate expectation that they would be provided with the report.

Tafa ordered the    applicants to  keep  the  contents  of    the  report confidential  and   not  pass   some information to  anybody who is not party to these proceedings.

Speaking to The Telegraph after the judgment the defense counsel  Gobhoza  said though he is happy about the outcome of the judgment, there are a number of things that Justice Tafa did not address that  he considered of paramount importance.

He said  what is crucial is the fact that the minister will within fourteen days release the report which will probably address what might have led the helicopter to crash so that the affected families may have closure.

“There is a very high possibility that the report might be doctored,” said the lawyer for the applicants.

“As defense counsel I have no clues about the names of the witnesses as that information has never been availed to us,” he said.

He however said once they have been given the report, he will study it carefully and will weigh the options for the next step to take.

He revealed that his clients want to sue government for about P15 million.


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