Pretoria - Being thrown in a filthy prison cell for no reason is inhumane, but taking a person’s artificial leg away from him while he has to face the harsh prison environment is even worse.
This is according to a judge who ordered the police to pay the victim R525 000 in damages.
Daniel Scheepers turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, following the harrowing ordeal. He was arrested out of the blue and for no reason and kept at various police stations and prisons for three weeks.
He was then simply told he could go home as he was not facing any charges. The police did not give him any explanation as to why he was incarcerated, or an apology.
Scheepers told the court that his stint behind bars was an absolute nightmare, even more so when someone whom he did not know or can identify took away his artificial leg for three days. A prison guard returned it to him.
He said not having his artificial leg made his movement unbearable while being locked up with criminals in a cell.
The court, in ordering the police to pay damages, commented that, by its nature, deprivation of someone’s liberty was inhuman, unconstitutional and unbearable given the fact that there was no justifiable cause to do so.
The now 68-year-old Scheepers testified that he was 55 when he was arrested for some unknown reason in December 2009.
He was then detained at the Roodepoort police station and later transferred to Johannesburg Central police station, before he was taken to the Diepkloof Prison (Sun City Prison), where he had to spend Christmas. He was only released on January 6, 2010.
The SAPS was not in a position to explain why Scheepers was arrested and detained, as its only witness – the captain who arrested Scheepers – had since died. The court was told that this officer was the SAPS’s only witness in this case.
Scheepers testified that he was arrested by the captain in Johannesburg while he was on the way to Sasol to do odd jobs. He told the court that the captain did not explain the reasons for his arrest.
He explained that he was kept in a filthy cell and not provided with food or water. He told the court that at the time of his arrest the captain told him to “shut up, else he would lock him up for a very long time”.
Scheepers said the conditions in the cell in Roodepoort were terrible as there was human faeces all over the place.
He was not allowed to contact any person, and was placed in solitary confinement in a room about 3mx3m, without a blanket or food.
He was then transferred to Johannesburg Central, where he was kept with robbers.
A few days later he was transferred to Diepkloof Prison, where there were not enough beds. Scheepers said “the place was horrible”.
He slept on the ground and his artificial leg was taken from him by unknown people, and thus he could not walk.
The artificial leg was brought back to him by the warder after three days. He was later told that he could go home.
As the court only heard Scheepers’s evidence and no one from the police side was called to rebut his evidence, the court noted that Scheepers’s evidence stood unchallenged.