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Cop to get damages for wrongful arrest

2012-03-22 14:42

Bloemfontein - The police must pay a Western Cape man R50 000 in damages for being unlawfully arrested and detained, the Supreme Court of Appeal found on Thursday.

The court dismissed an appeal by the minister of safety and security against an order of the Western Cape High Court declaring the arrest and detention of Johannes Swart, who was a police officer, unlawful.

The SCA found no reason to interfere with the high court's allocation of R50 000 plus interest in damages.

Swart was arrested by a constable without a warrant on a suspicion of drunken driving in May 2007. He was detained at De Doorns police station.

Blood alcohol level

The criminal charges against him were withdrawn the next day after tests revealed that his blood alcohol level at the time of driving was below the permissible legal limit.

The key issue in the appeal was whether the mere smell of alcohol was sufficient to give rise to a reasonable suspicion, on the part of the arresting official, that Swart was drunk.

Swart's car landed in a ditch on a dangerous curve early in the morning. When he stopped two police officers to help him get it out, he was arrested.

The SCA held that the arresting official's suspicion was not based on reasonable grounds and therefore the arrest and detention were unlawful.

The court found that Swart had behaved like a person in full control of himself at the time of his arrest.

Comments
  • ludlowdj - 2012-03-22 15:31

    Far to many people have been detained in cells overnight to appear in court and then had the court case remanded until the blood tests come back only to have the whole case thrown out because the breathalyzer is wrong or the police officer erred in judgment. I personally know of people who spend a night in jail only to have a completely negative blood test come back.

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