PE woman awarded R20,000 for unlawful arrest

A Port Elizabeth woman has been awarded R20,000 damages for unlawful arrest.
WRONGFUL ARREST: A Port Elizabeth woman has been awarded R20,000 damages for unlawful arrest.

A Port Elizabeth mother who was illegally detained by the police after they raided her home on suspicion she was selling drugs  has won a civil claim against them after she proved that her arrest was unlawful.

Earlier this month, judge Mandela Makaula ordered that the police compensate Carmen Venorine George, 38, of Schauderville, R20,000 for her May 2014 unlawful arrest.

George had initially claimed R60,000 as damages and claimed that during the search of the house a pair of earrings and a ring had been stolen, purportedly by the police.

During a search by police at the Neave Street, Schauderville home which she then shared with her mother, brother and nine-year-old daughter, police found R4,000 and an undisclosed amount of tik in her brother’s bedroom.

George, who was the only person present at the house at the time of the search, was taken to the Gelvandale police station charge office at 4pm on May 24, 2014 and detained until 10pm that night shortly after bail was posted.

In his judgment, handed down in the high court in Makhanda, Makaula found that the arresting officer, who claimed he saw George exiting her brother’s room prior to the search, had falsified information in that other witnesses had confirmed the officer could not have seen her coming out the room prior to them entering the house.

“I am loathe to say that [the arresting officer] lied.

“What compounds his evidence in this regard is the fact that he did not reflect this in his pocketbook nor did he record in his written statement that he made a few hours after the incident.

“[It] cannot be accepted that [the arresting officer] entertained a reasonable suspicion at the time of arrest. A reasonable person in his position would have done more to investigate the issues.

“The inevitable conclusion is that [George’s] arrest was unlawful and his subsequent detention follows suit,” Makaula said.      

Makaula said the purpose of the award was to compensate George for her injured feelings and not to enrich her.

“[George] was removed from the house in full view of her neighbours and other people who were in the street.

“She was taken to Gelvandale police station. They remained in the police motor vehicle for about an hour.

“She was taken to an office where she was ordered to sign a form that contained her constitutional rights. She was taken to a police cell and she joined a lady who was detained.

  “The toilet seat was bloodstained. The cell had concrete floors and she was given a thin mattress to sleep on.

“The conditions in the cell were horrible, so she testified,” Makaula said.

Makaula ordered that George be compensated R20,000 and that the police pay 75% of the costs of the suit.

Makaula dismissed George’s claim over the missing jewellery.