PMB attorney ‘shackled’ to hospital bed after assauting cops

2014-03-25 00:00

A WELL-KNOWN Pietermaritzburg attorney spent the weekend shackled to a hospital bed after a confrontation with police, during which he allegedly tossed an officer over a balustrade.

Lawyers acting for Oliver Bernhard (40) have vowed to sue and charge the officers with police brutality after the altercation.

Bernhard was arrested on Friday (March 21) at the Pietermaritzburg home of his business partner, Claudia Garella, with whom he was allegedly involved in a relationship which has turned sour.

He has been charged with assaulting two police officers and with using Garella’s vehicle without her consent on the same day.

The court also heard that Garella obtained a protection order against Bernhard in a domestic violence court yesterday.

Following Bernhard’s release on bail of R1 500 in the magistrate’s court yesterday afternoon, his lawyer Jacques Botha told The Witness that as soon as Bernhard is medically fit, his firm will institute counter charges against the police for their brutal treatment of his client. He said Bernhard was struck with the butt of an R5 rifle during an altercation, and suffered injuries from assaults on him by police.

He also alleged Bernhard was “shackled” to his hospital bed under police guard for the duration of the weekend.

“I have a photograph of him with his leg chained to his bed,” he said.

Botha said Bernhard couldn’t lay charges while in custody and on medication. However, Botha will assist him to lay counter charges and institute a civil claim against the police once he is fit.

“He denies the criminal charges against him,” Botha added.

According to the charge sheet, Bernhard is charged with unlawfully using a Kia Sportage without the consent of the owner, Garella, on March 21.

He is further charged with assaulting police officer Sunil Soni by “hitting him with a clenched fist on his face” the same day at a home in Cordwalles Road, and assaulting another policeman, Njabula Ngcobo, by “throwing him over the balustrade”.

Bernhard’s advocate, Gideon Scheltema, SC, confirmed during a brief bail hearing that Garella had obtained an interim protection order against Bernhard in the domestic violence court.

He was responding to state prosecutor Kwaziwenkosi Zimu’s initial objection to bail on the grounds that the state was concerned for Garella’s safety.

Zimu withdrew his opposition to bail after being told that an agreement was reached between Bernhard’s lawyers, the investigating officer, and senior public prosecutor Morris Alexander concerning bail.

Scheltema submitted that Garella — and her two-year-old son — were already protected in terms of the court order granted in the domestic violence court. Further, he wasn’t charged with any violence towards Garella, only towards policemen.

Scheltema said, however, that Bernhard didn’t object to bail conditions being imposed to stop him from interfering with Garella.

He said Bernhard is not a flight risk as he is a member of the legal profession who has been practising for 14 years, and was born and educated in Pietermaritzburg.

The court granted Bernhard bail of R1 500 on condition that he doesn’t communicate or interfere with Garella and other state witnesses.

The case was postponed to May 6 for further investigation.

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