Pretoria - A lawyer who was dragged out of a hair salon and thrown into a police vehicle is claiming more than R70 million in damages from the SAPS.
The woman, who is not identified as she had suffered a miscarriage following her hair-raising experience, claimed R59 575 000 in damages. This included damages for the fact that she had a miscarriage, for which she blamed the police.
She further claimed R16m for loss of income, saying she was so traumatised that she could not continue with her law practice.
The woman’s ordeal started on Saturday, June 30, 2007 – four days after she had married her husband. He accompanied her to a hair salon and waited for her there.
As she was being treated under a hair dryer, two policemen came into the salon. Her husband was standing at the counter. They told her husband that he was under arrest.
The woman asked why her husband was arrested, but the police simply told her to get a lawyer. She told the about 20 officers in the salon that she was a lawyer.
The court was told that one of the officers, out of the blue, came to her and slapped her while she was still under the dryer.
She fell to the ground and was repeatedly kicked on her body, legs and stomach.
The woman described how she was pulled up by her hair and clothes. She then found her balance and stood up.
She and her husband were dragged across the road to a police vehicle and forcibly pushed into it.
There was a commotion and people were looking at what was happening to them. The keys of her Jeep vehicle were obtained from her.
They drove off in the police vehicle, but the officer who was driving the vehicle slammed on the brakes and they came to a standstill. The sergeant pointed a firearm at them, asking what was wrong with the Jeep as apparently it could not start.
The woman said the officer told her that if something happened to the officer driving her Jeep, he would shoot both her and her husband.
The woman and her husband were detained at different police stations. The reason for her incarceration, she said, was because she “interfered with the police” when they arrested her husband.
She again told the police that she was an attorney and was released after a few hours. She said she was warned and threatened not to open a case against them as they knew where she was living. She drove off in her Jeep to her home.
The next morning she received a call from one of the officers who apologised to her for assaulting her. As she was afraid, she told the policeman that she accepted the apology and that she would not open a case against him.
Meanwhile she managed to arrange bail for her husband.
As she had abdominal pain, the woman went to the doctor a few days later, where she established for the first time that she was actually four weeks pregnant. However, she had a miscarriage.
She then opened a case against the police despite the earlier threats not to do so. The criminal case she opened against the policemen was later withdrawn by the State.
The woman said she became so depressed about what happened that she could not practise as an attorney any longer. She was also scared of the police for laying charges against them.
While the police did not call any witnesses to refute the woman’s allegations, the court was told that her arrest was lawful, as she interfered with the SAPS while they were arresting her husband.
No details were given by the wife as to why her husband, a Nigerian national, was arrested, nor did she deny that his arrest was unlawful.
However, she maintained that she had lost her unborn baby because of the way she was treated.
Medical experts meanwhile testified that while it was possible that the psychological stress was the probable cause of the loss of pregnancy, as it was more probable that the pregnancy loss was caused by chromosomal abnormalities.
The court said that the woman proved that she was assaulted by the police and unlawfully detained, but she did not prove that the loss of pregnancy was the fault of the police. The court also found that the fact that she had closed the doors of her law practice could not be attributed to the conduct of the police.
Judge Rean Strydom ordered that the police were liable for the damages she could prove she had suffered while they manhandled her as well as for the about five hours of deprivation of her freedom.