Mom and son thrown in cells

2008-02-12 00:00

A Pietermaritzburg widow, Lorraine Tryon, and her son, Gary (13), spent a traumatic five hours imprisoned in a cell at the Mountain Rise Police Station last Friday after "forgetting" to appear in court to give evidence against a man charged with breaking into their home last July.

Their attorney, Carlos Miranda, said a civil damages claim will be instituted against the SA Police Service.

He expressed particular concern that police failed to heed his warnings that it is illegal to incarcerate a juvenile, and that the warrant authorised for Gary Tryon’s arrest was faulty and invalid because it referred to him as an adult. It was only after the intervention of the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) office that the release of mother and son was eventually secured.

While a magistrate can issue warrants of arrest for any person who fails to attend court in response to a subpoena (a court order), the manner in which the arrests were carried out and the timing has been criticised.

The warrants were issued by the court on January 16, but police chose to arrest Tryon and her son on a Friday afternoon to face the prospect of spending the weekend behind bars.

Tryon told The Witness yesterday the incident was a truly frightening ordeal for her and Gary as well as her younger son, Sherwin (8).

She said the police officer who came to arrest her shortly before 3 pm on Friday told her she would be "locked up" for the weekend and would have to appear in court on Monday to explain why she ignored the subpoena.

Lorraine, who lives in Eastwood with her two sons, said she lost her husband tragically in October last year, resulting in the family going through an extremely tough time, and requiring counselling.

"I had placed the summons on top of my fridge some time ago and I just simply forgot about it. I did not deliberately ignore it," she said.

She told The Witness the incident she was due to give evidence about, happened on July 4 last year, when an intruder jumped over the wall into their yard and entered the house.

"We laid a charge at the police station and then no one contacted us for months. Then one day a policeman came and we gave him the whole story. One evening towards the end of last year he came and dropped off the summons for us to give evidence on January 16. I read it, put it on the fridge and clean forgot about it."

Inspector Joey Jeevan confirmed that Tryon and her son were arrested.

She said in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act the police were compelled to execute a warrant of arrest. "In this instance … on discovering that one of the persons was a juvenile, the senior public prosecutor was consulted whereafter the juvenile was released."

Jeevan added that the matter is nonetheless of "grave concern" to the SAPS and "will be forwarded to the DPP for the necessary investigations".

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