South Africa: Unlawful arrest costs

A man who works for a law firm in Pretoria has been awarded R50 000 for damages after being arrested for allegedly being drunk in public and kept in custody overnight before all charges were dropped against him.

Judge N Poswa, in the High Court in Pretoria, yesterday set aside the ruling of a Pretoria North Magistrate who had dismissed the R100 000 damages claim of Jan Motsei against the police.

The judge ordered the Minister of Police to pay damages to Motsei resulting from his unlawful arrest and detention four years ago. Motsei was arrested at the Sinoville police station, where he went after a friend was arrested outside a supermarket in Sinoville earlier that evening.

Their arrest formed part of a police operation to arrest persons suspected of committing petty crimes, such as urinating or drinking in public, in order to curb the commission of more serious crimes.

Motsei was kept in a police cell overnight and refused permission to phone his employer.

Judge Poswa found that Motsei’s arrest had not been justified and that the police constable who arrested him should have considered if there was a less invasive method of bringing him to the police station.

They should have released him immediately if there was not a prima facie case against him. “ … I find it odd that one should be arrested, not so much for the ‘petty offence’ he or she has allegedly committed … but merely because the lesser offence makes him or her a candidate for commission of a more serious offence, which he or she may commit.”

Source: citizen online, 20100305

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