Sex case: call for vigilance

2008-08-12 00:00

If justice is to be served, the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) — the police watchdog organisation — will have to keep an eye on the case of a Pietermaritzburg police inspector who has been charged with sexually assaulting a grieving mother.

This was the reaction of Lifeline director Debbie Harrison to the case, which was reported in The Witness on Monday.

The inspector is out on bail and is due to appear in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on September 10.

He allegedly demanded sexual favours and groped the woman, who had gone to the Copesville satellite police station to seek help for her sick baby. The baby later died at the police station.

It is alleged that the policeman continued to harass the 32-year-old mother even after her child had been pronounced dead by paramedics.

Harrison described the inspector’s alleged act as “rare and disgusting” behaviour by a police officer against a vulnerable person.

“The fact that he was arrested is encouraging. I hope an organisation such as ICD keeps a watchful eye on the whole case to make sure that justice is served,” said Harrison.

Police spokesman Superintendent Vincent Mdunge supported Harrison’s call for the ICD to be involved, and said the SAPS will institute disciplinary action against the policeman.

“We have to appoint presiding and disciplinary officers. He also has to find his own representative,” said Mdunge.

He said the SAPS is considering speeding up the disciplinary hearing to make sure that the inspector is fired if this hearing finds him guilty, even before the court case is over.

Harrison also commended the woman for her courage in opening the case against the police officer. “Such cases used to be common before 1994, but since then people learnt about their rights and started to report perpetrators,” said Harrison.

She said Lifeline can provide protection and counselling for the alleged victim.

“We do provide a place of safety to victims even though we do not have enough accommodation.

One of our staff members will have to arrange a meeting with her,” said Harrison.

The story made national headlines after being published in The Witness.

“The story … is another case of blatant disregard for South Africans’ human rights. This again raises the issues of more severe penalties for such shocking actions of those who are supposed to ‘protect and administer the law’,” one reader wrote on The Witness website.

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