Pretoria - A choice to retrieve a key from between a woman’s breasts or pepper spray her to obtain the key, has cost two police officers.
They were convicted of assault and slapped with a hefty fine. However, on appeal, the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria overturned their convictions.
Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi said the idea to retrieve the key from between the woman’s breasts was too “ghastly” for the officers. They were commended for not going this route.
The judge found they had acted in self defence when they opted for pepper spray.
Officers Jimmy Manasa and Majozi Phakula were earlier sentenced to a fine of R6 000 each or 90 days’ imprisonment for assault. Although the magistrate who had convicted them said the woman clearly did not tell the whole truth about what happened, he still convicted the pair as they did not deny using the pepper spray.
Their ordeal started when the woman called for assistance with her daughter, who she said refused to go back to school.
The officers went to the house in Chief Luthuli Park in Ekurhuleni East. The woman said the officers told her to give her daughter her clothes so she could leave. When she refused, as she believed her daughter would not go to school, the officers told her she did not have respect.
She said one of them suddenly sprayed her in the face, while the other held her hands at the back. She testified that one of the officers had closed the door.
As a result, her eyes were sore and she had to consult a doctor who said her eyes were damaged.
The evidence of the officers was that the woman was pepper sprayed after she locked the door of the house when they tried to leave with the daughter and grandchild. They said she then placed the key to the only door in the house between her breasts.
As they were not prepared to manhandle her to retrieve the key, their only option was to pepper spray her.
Judge Mngqibisa-Thusi said the officers’ version was that they pepper sprayed the woman only after they pleaded with her to give them the key, and warning her several times that if she refused, they would use pepper spray.
“I am of the view that the appellants found themselves in an emergency situation, in that they and the daughter were unable to leave the complainant’s house due to her conduct.”
The judge noted that the magistrate, in convicting them, said they were stronger than the woman and ould have taken the key by force.
But, the judge said, this would have meant they had to fish the key out from between her breasts.
“It cannot be disputed that under the circumstances, the use of the pepper spray can be considered to have been minimum force as the alternative, being too ghastly to contemplate, retrieving the keys from the complainant’s breasts,” the judge said.