The police minister should compensate two men who were unlawfully arrested and detained for four days after being caught with a plastic bag containing an unknown substance at their feet in the bathroom of a Bronkhorstspruit tavern, a high court judge has ruled.
Acting Judge JJC Swanepoel ruled in the High Court in Pretoria that the July 2015 arrest and detention of Alec de Lange and his friend Roedolf Grabie for the alleged possession of tranquillisers had been unlawful.
The two men were at a tavern in Bronkhorstspruit when a barman reported to the owner that he had overheard Grabie telling another patron that De Lange had gone to buy drugs and they should meet in the bathroom on his return.
The tavern owner reported the conversation to a police officer who was also there.
When De Lange returned, the owner asked the policeman to accompany her to the bathroom, but they found the door locked.
After a bystander kicked open the door, the police officer found De Lange and Rabie standing in the toilet and a small white plastic bag containing something white on the floor near De Lange’s feet.
While the police officer guarded the men to stop them from leaving, the tavern owner phoned another police officer, who later arrived at the scene and transported De Lange and Grabie to the police station.
The men were held in custody for four days before they appeared in court, but they were never prosecuted.
De Lange and Grabie insisted they knew nothing about the bag and that many other people had used the toilet that night.
Swanepoel ruled the pair’s arrest and detention had been unlawful because they were not advised of a reason for their arrest, the police had no idea if the bag contained drugs and they could not reasonably conclude that De Lange and Grabie were in possession of drugs. The amount of compensation must still be determined.