POLICE abuse of power was criticised by a high court judge who yesterday awarded a Durban businessman, Niemesh Singh, R110 000 damages for police harassment he suffered when he tried to help the mother of his daughter’s friend. The state had already agreed that it was liable to pay damages and yesterday’s judgment was only to decide the amount. Singh, who lives in a plush estate in Durban and owns commercial property, fell foul of policemen from Phoenix when he intervened after Monica Naidu was arrested for talking on her cellphone whilst driving her car on May 19, 2010. Judge Johann Ploos van Amstel found that Warrant Officer Theena Pillay demanded Singh pay R5 000 bail for Naidu “in order to pave the way for a bribe” to let her go. When Singh queried the excessive amount, Pillay threatened to arrest and detain Singh and “teach him a lesson”. He thereafter acted on his threat and sent colleagues — warrant officers Dayalan Naidoo and Rajan Joseph — to go and arrest Singh. The judge said although Naidoo and Joseph were sympathetic, apologised and left after hearing Singh’s side of the story, they had by then also already infringed Singh’s rights. “They had no warrant for his arrest and he had committed no offence in their presence. They had no right to arrest him and I have no doubt they knew that. “They entered the gated estate where he lives in a marked police vehicle with a flashing blue light, accompanied by a security guard who worked there. “Six of them alighted from the vehicle in the plaintiff’s [Singh’s] driveway, one with a rifle, and Joesph told him [Singh] that they had come to arrest him,” the judge said. Singh told them he was not going to let Pillay “get away with it” as the same thing could happen to his wife and daughter. A short while later, another policeman, Warrant Officer Dharmalingum Naicker, called Singh and in a “high-handed and arrogant manner” ordered him to go to Phoenix police station and said he intended to charge him with obstruction of justice and intimidation. “He [Naicker] also threatened to teach the plaintiff [Singh] a lesson and said he was sending a police van to fetch him,” the judge said. He said this had caused Singh a great deal of stress, to the extent that he and his family went away to a safe place until the following afternoon. Singh’s sugar levels had increased to a point where he was at risk of going into a coma. The judge said the policemen’s behaviour was unlawful, malicious and unconstitutional. “Pillay and Naicker appear not to understand that as policemen they have a duty to protect the public and be respectful in their dealings with people,” he said. “One reads with disturbing regularity of policemen in this country who abuse their powers and behave unlawfully,” the judge added. He ordered that the minister and the policemen were jointly liable to pay R50 000 in respect of Pillay’s behaviour, R50 000 in respect of that of Naicker and R10 000 in respect of the Naidoo and Joseph’s actions. They were also ordered to pay legal costs of the trial.