Widow to claim for husband’s illegal arrest

2015-02-11 00:00

A HIGH court judge has paved the way for the widow of a KZN man who was illegally arrested and imprisoned for a year, to launch a claim for damages ­estimated at R30 million.

Judge Isaac Madondo ruled yesterday that the minister of Police and Warrant Officer Johannes Koegelenberg are “jointly and severally” responsible to pay “proven or agreed” damages to the ­widow of the late Perumal Pillay of the South Coast.

Evidence to determine the amount that will ultimately be paid will be the subject of a separate trial.

The court was told by Pillay’s advocate Fazal Moola SC that Pillay has died since launching the lawsuit, but his ­widow Joan, who is the executor of his estate, is pursuing the claim.

Currently the damages claim is for R30 million. The amount was described in court papers as being “general ­damages” for loss of freedom, ­discomfort, embarrassment, humiliation, loss of dignity, loss of amenities of life, injury to reputation, loss of earnings and deterioration of health.

An emotional Joan Pillay, who attended the case yesterday, told The Witness she was “very happy that justice has ­prevailed”, but said she did not want to comment any further.

The claim against the police arises from a finding that her late husband’s arrest on three fraud charges, as well as his subsequent imprisonment from June 17, 2010 until June 20, 2011, were unlawful.

Pillay was 45 years old at the time of his arrest.

Madondo upheld a judgment handed down by (then Acting) Judge Philip Nkosi who ordered Pillay’s release on June 20, 2011. In that case, he said, it was made clear both in court papers and by the counsel who represented the police, that they did not deny that Pillay’s arrest had been unlawful.

This was because the arresting officer — Warrant Officer Koegelenberg — did not produce a warrant of ­arrest to show Pillay when he requested to see it. In terms of the Criminal ­Procedure Act he was required to do so.

Nkosi ruled (and Madondo agreed) that Pillay’s continued detention ­thereafter — though ordered by a ­magistrate who denied him bail — was also tainted and illegal.

He found the admission by the police in the earlier case, that the arrest was ­unlawful and the eventual finding by Nkosi that Pillay’s continued detention was ­also unlawful, must stand.

Madondo said it could not be a “mistake” that it had been admitted in court papers on behalf of the police that the arrest was unlawful, as this was later confirmed by the advocate representing the police. “I therefore find that the issue was finally decided [by Nkosi],” he said.

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