News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
24 Mar 2018
6:20 am

Police minister pays again for unlawful arrests

Ilse de Lange

A Newcastle man and his disabled nephew were granted R370 000 after they were arrested on Christmas eve and locked up in a filthy cell.

The police minister has been ordered to pay R370 000 damages for the unlawful arrest of a Newcastle man and his eight-year-old disabled nephew, who were forced to spend Christmas Eve in a filthy jail cell.

Acting Judge J Hattingh ruled in the High Court in Pretoria that the minister must pay R200 000 damages to Nundkissoon Latchman and R170 000 to his nephew for their ordeal in December 2008, when they were arrested for the illegal possession of abalone.

Latchman told the court a close friend, Feng Chu Yeh, had invited him to accompany him and three Chinese women to Cape Town and that he had taken his eight-year-old nephew along for a free holiday. They were touring through Hout Bay after Feng asked him to stop at a place so he could buy fresh fish.

The police pulled them over, searched their vehicle and found a bag with frozen abalone.

Latchman said he had trusted Feng and only realised the bag contained abalone when it was opened. He told the police he was only the driver and the seafood belonged to Feng, who also confirmed he had bought the abalone.

Feng even took the police to the place where the abalone was bought, but they said it was too dangerous to arrest those people and instead arrested all occupants of the vehicle, including his young nephew.

They were forced to spend the night in the cell and were given blankets infested with fleas and bugs. Latchman kept the frightened child on his lap the whole night.

The child was only removed the next morning when a female police officer arrived and asked what the boy was doing in the cell. She kept the child with her until his father came to fetch him.

The rest remained in the cells until December 26, when they were released on police bail. All charges were later withdrawn.

The boy testified that he could still remember a policeman saying, “Enjoy your night in jail with bugs”. He still fears bugs and public toilets and does not want to go near a police officer.

Hattingh found the arrests and detention unlawful.

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