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Court turns down seriously injured inmate’s claim for R1m damages suffered during violent prison fight

Ricardo Wepener claimed R1 million in damages from Correctional Services after he was seriously injured during a violent fight at the Brandvlei Correctional Facility. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Ricardo Wepener claimed R1 million in damages from Correctional Services after he was seriously injured during a violent fight at the Brandvlei Correctional Facility. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 18, 2022

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Pretoria - Several guards were severely attacked and seriously injured during a violent fight at the Brandvlei Correctional Facility in the Western Cape in 2009.

One of the instigators of the fight – a member of the 26 gang – subsequently claimed damages after suffering injuries when the officials tried to restore order.

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Ricardo Wepener claimed R1  million in damages from Correctional Services in the Cape Town High Court.

He said that he suffered severe injuries at the hands of the guards and was also bitten by one of the guard’s service dogs.

In its defence, the department told the court that it was faced with a dangerous situation where Wepener and his fellow inmates stabbed some of the officials with knives and other sharp objects.

The other officials had to come to the aid of their colleagues, and they acted in an emergency situation to defuse the unrest.

The correctional officers denied that they had assaulted Wepener, and said that they had used minimum force with certain equipment lawfully issued by the department, to calm the situation.

According to the department, its officials acted in self-defence in protecting the interest and the administration of Brandvlei Correctional Facility, its inmates and its employees against a dangerous situation created by Wepener and his fellow inmates. They believed a dangerous situation existed and said no excessive force was used.

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The fight broke out in February 2009, when an inmate asked the officials to open one of the cells as a prisoner there was due to receive a visit.

Two of the officers went to the cell, when Wepener suddenly called “up”, the 26 gang’s instruction to stab.

An inmate started to attack one of the officers and viciously stabbed him. He kept on stabbing the official even though the man was on the ground. The official was stabbed 42 times and the attack on him ended only when the knife got stuck in his arm.

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During that commotion, Wepener and several other inmates stabbed the other officer who was there. According to evidence before the court, Wepener stabbed the officer several times, even though the latter begged for mercy.

Although both officials were severely injured and had to be transported to hospital via ambulance, both recovered. However, one of them was so badly injured that his hand remained half-paralysed.

Wepener told the court he was so badly beaten and bitten that he was induced into a coma and had to stay in hospital for several days. But the court said he had tried to mislead it, as he had exaggerated his injuries and was discharged from hospital the next day.

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In turning down his R1m claim, the court found that the force used by the officials in the circumstances was reasonable and justifiable.

Pretoria News

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