Cop wins in court

2011-12-14 00:00

PUBLICLY vilified and humiliated for doing his job, traffic officer Xolani Mtshali believes justice has finally been done after he walked out of court yesterday a free man.

Mtshali was accused by motorist Jude Ward of assault in a Camperdown charge office on January 18 last year.

Yesterday magistrate L. Perumal ruled that there was insufficient evidence on which a reasonable court could convict him.

In a largely inaudible judgment, Perumal ruled in favour of Mtshali’s application for a discharge.

He found that Ward had been a single witness and that the quality of her evidence was “poor” and required corroboration.

Mtshali was therefore discharged at the close of the state’s case, without being required to enter the witness box to defend himself.

He declined to comment directly to the media and referred queries to the transport department’s Kwalane Ncalane instead.

Ncalane told The Witness that Mtshali believed he had acted within the ambit of the law and that the court’s decision confirmed he was doing his duty all along.

“Mtshali said the way the complainant [Ward] described what happened in media reports was exaggerated and sometimes lacked the truth.

“The officer feels that he was humiliated by being dragged to court for doing his duty and feels that his acquittal means that justice has been done at last.”

A visibly shaken and distraught Ward vowed never to set foot in a police station to ask for help again.

She said she had lost her battle to “make the roads safe for women” to travel on.

“I have fought for two years for nothing … None of you are safe now.

“I can tell you I will never again go to any police station for help. Look where it got me.”

Ward was consoled by her attorney, Karen Hattingh, who confirmed that a R100 000 damages claim had been lodged against the safety and security minister, the Transport Department and Mtshali himself.

The claim is for general damages and pain and suffering caused by the alleged assault on Ward and for her allegedly unlawful arrest.

The state has given notice of its intention to defend the lawsuit.

Hattingh said she would consult further with Ward to discuss whether to proceed with the civil claim following yesterday’s ruling.

There is a different legal test applicable in civil proceedings to criminal matters.

Giving evidence against Mtshali in July this year, Ward became emotional and cried frequently.

She testified she was a “mess” after the incident that began with a confrontation on the N3 and ended at the Camperdown police station where Ward sought refuge.

She alleged Mtshali had “bashed, grabbed and shouted” at her inside the Camperdown police station in front of policemen who made no attempt to help her.

She was accused of being a “drama queen”.

The case received widespread publicity and resulted in counter-charges being laid against Ward by Mtshali for allegedly inconsiderate driving and refusing to obey a traffic officer’s instructions.

She stood trial on these charges and was discharged at the end of the state’s case by another Camperdown magistrate, T.Z. Nkosi.

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