News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
13 Mar 2017
5:00 am

Man gets R30K for spending 5.5 hours in jail

Ilse de Lange

A Pretoria north scrap metals worker was wrongfully arrested for possession of stolen goods.

Stock image.

His five and a half humiliating hours in a police cell has netted the workshop manager of a Pretoria north scrap metal dealer R30 000 – or R90.90 per minute.

Judge Daisy Molefe in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ordered that the police minister compensate Christoff Koekemoer for his unlawful arrest and detention ordeal in August 2014.

Koekemoer, who works for Just Metals Scrapyard, had initially sued police for R100 000 in damages after a large contingent of officers arrived at his place of work and arrested him for the possession of suspected stolen goods after finding a bag with 319kg of shiny copper cables at the premises.

A man who accompanied police informed Koekemoer the cables were illegal, as they belonged to Eskom.

Koekemoer then went to fetch the purchase notes of the copper cables. But when he handed them to police, they refused to accept the documents and arrested him.

Koekemoer told the court the copper cables were commonly used by electricians and could be purchased anywhere.

He was taken to the Pretoria North Police Station, where he was detained in a police cell with no restrooms and eight other inmates. He was only released several hours later.

Koekemoer testified that his arrest and detention for a crime he did not commit had been painful, embarrassing and that his dignity was degraded.

The charges against Koekemoer were withdrawn more than a month later, after the investigating officer found his explanation about how the copper came to be in his possession was reasonable.

Judge Molefe rejected the police’s evidence that Koekemoer had been arrested because he failed to explain the origin of the copper cables.

She said it was highly improbable that Koekemoer would refuse to give an explanation and documentation when faced with arrest.

The “expert” who accompanied police during the raid at the scrapyard and pointed out the copper as belonging to Eskom was an independent contractor, and neither an expert, nor an Eskom employee.

He could not give expert evidence on the origin and value of the cables, she said.

The judge ruled that the police’s suspicion that a crime had been committed had not been based on reasonable grounds.

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