SAPS ordered to pay R395 000 compensation to man who was assaulted, detained and prosecuted at police station

SAPS must pay R395 000 to a man who was assaulted, detained and prosecuted at the Wierdabrug police station. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

SAPS must pay R395 000 to a man who was assaulted, detained and prosecuted at the Wierdabrug police station. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Sep 14, 2023


Pretoria - The SAPS was ordered to pay R395 000 as compensation to a man after he was unlawfully assaulted, detained and prosecuted at the Wierdabrug police station in Centurion.

Barend Burger’s ordeal began when he tried to secure bail for his son who had been detained at the station.

After waiting for almost the whole day to be assisted, the police told him his matter was not important.

When he tried to film the officer who told him this, he was taken to a room, where he was severely assaulted.

In an attempt to defend himself, he punched one of the officers. This led to him being detained for 15 hours.

He was charged with assault and had to appear in court several times before the SAPS withdrew the charges.

Burger subsequently lost his job.

He turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, where he claimed damages for unlawful assault and detention, assault and malicious prosecution.

The court at the time ordered the police to pay him R600 000 as compensation.

The minister of police appealed against the ruling, but lost.

Judge Nicolene Janse van Nieuwenhuizen, however, did reduce the amount payable by the police.

Burger was arrested in June 2016. He had received a call from his son who had been arrested on a charge of malicious damage to property.

He went to the police station with his son’s girlfriend to find out whether they could post bail for him.

He was told that he had to wait for the station commander, who was not available.

Burger waited the whole day at the police station only to be told after 6pm that the station commander was off duty and another station commander had taken over.

He was told to go home.

When he got home he found his wife in a terrible state. She was worried and could not stop crying.

He decided to return to the police station and when he arrived, there was a long queue. He waited his turn to speak to a police officer, as he wanted to see the station commander.

He said the officer became rude and told him that his case was not that important. She told him to stand at the back and wait for the station commander.

By this time Burger was frustrated and told the officer he had been waiting the whole day. He told her there was no need for her to be rude. He tried to take a video of her to report her conduct, but was dragged into a room by three officers.

They jumped on him, choked him, kicked and punched him, and stepped on his face. Burger was also kicked in his genitals and he curled into a ball in an attempt to protect himself.

At some stage he managed to move into a kneeling position and punched the police officer in front of him in the face.

This led to his arrest and detention for 15 hours.

Judge Van Nieuwenhuizen said the police officers were well aware that Burger’s conduct stemmed from a desperate attempt to stop the unlawful assault on him and that he acted in self-defence.

She said he was 58 at the time and although it was the middle of winter, he was kept in an open cell without a roof. The cell was very dirty and contained only a dirty, thin mattress and an old blanket.

Burger said he could not sleep and remained in a seated position the whole night. It was very cold, and he was in constant pain. Being a diabetic, he also needed his medication.

Paramedics were called to his cell the next morning and they recorded the bruises across his body. They, however, did not treat him. He was released on bail a while later and treated in hospital.

He had to attend court several occasions, but nothing came of the charges as the witnesses for the SAPS were not able to come to court to testify.

Pretoria News