A police constable who corruptly smuggled mandrax and tik to an awaiting- trial prisoner at the Swellendam Magistrate's Court was jailed for eight years on Friday for corruption. Constable Grandville Francke, 34, an orderly at the court, was unaware that he had been targeted in an under-cover police operation and that the prisoner in the cell was in fact part of the trap in March last year.
He appeared in the Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court before Magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg, who also declared him unfit to possess a firearm. According to the charge sheet, Francke handed a parcel containing three mandrax tablets and three straws filled with tik to the prisoner in the cell and then went to a store in Swellendam where he received his R500 reward.
Francke told the court that he had given the parcel to the prisoner unaware that it contained drugs, and that he was soon afterwards sent to a shop to purchase chocolates for his supervisor.
On the way, a stranger had given him what he first thought was a R100 note but what turned out to be R500, to buy himself something to drink.
Because of the general hostility between the public and the police, he had accepted the money as a gesture of gratitude for his work as a police official, knowing full well that he was forbidden to accept gifts from the public.
When he realised that he had been given R500 and not R100, he could not "go chasing after the stranger to tell him he had given him too much", Francke told the court.
He was unaware, at the time, that his acceptance of the money made him guilty of corruption, he told the court.
The magistrate disagreed with defence attorney Chantelle Morgan that Francke was entitled to the benefit of the doubt, and therefore an acquittal.
Instead, she ruled that his version was so inherently unlikely as to be rejected as false.
She said Francke, with seven years' service, was an embarrassment to the police service.
A wholly suspended sentence, or correctional supervision involving a short period of imprisonment and then his release into house arrest, as suggested by the defence, was inappropriate.
Lenient sentences would cause the public to lose respect for the courts, and would encourage people to take the law into their own hands, she said.
She agreed with prosecutor Xolile Jonas that corruption involving police officials called for harsh punishment, as their job was to uphold the law, not breach it.
The message to the Swellendam community had to be that corruption would not be tolerated.