‘Clerical error’ sees man arrested and kept in cell for hours

2014-01-08 00:00

A MAN from the West Rand plans to lay a charge of unlawful arrest against members of the police’s flying squad after a clerical error caused the officers to mistake his car for a stolen vehicle and him to be locked up for seven hours.

Rinesh Sewraj, from Ruimsig, was pulled off the road after he took the N12 Bloemfontein/Kimberley off-ramp to Johannesburg on Monday morning.

He, his sister, Reshma Sookoo, her husband Gregory and their daughter, Kiara (8), were on their way home after holidaying in Durban.

Sewraj immediately stopped when he saw the flying squad officers.

“There was an armed police officer on both sides of my Polo. One policeman pulled me out of the car and threw me to the ground.”

Sewraj said the officer stood on him with one boot and swore while he read him his rights.

His bother-in-law was also told to lie on the ground while the officers searched the vehicle.

His sister said everything took place in front of their daughter, who was badly traumatised.

“Seconds after her mom got out of the car, Kiara also jumped out and pleaded with the police officers not to hurt her dad and her uncle,” she said.

Sewraj was arrested and taken to the Alberton police station. After a long struggle to find out why he was arrested, his brother-in-law called the dealer where Sewraj had bought the Polo. He found out that a maroon Toyota RunX with a registration number that differs by one digit from that of his grey Polo had been stolen last year.

An error was made when the registration of the stolen RunX was captured on the police’s database of stolen vehicles.

His brother-in-law had to get documents from the dealer to prove that he is the lawful owner of the Polo and that the vehicle was not stolen.

This was done and submitted to the police. Sewraj was released after about seven hours.

His car had meanwhile been towed to the police pound in Benoni and Sewraj could only get it back yesterday.

Hy said he was kept in custody with six “hardened criminals”.

“I felt unsafe. The men told me they were in for murder and armed robbery. They told me not to go to sleep, because I knew what would happen then.”

He said one of the men demanded R200 for “protection money”.

His family is unhappy that the police did not apologise.

Police spokesperson Sergeant Phora Nkuna said Sewraj had been arrested because his registration plate was listed as that of a stolen vehicle.

“After we received confirmation that he was the lawful owner of the vehicle, he was released without a fine. It [the error] was not his fault.”

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