SAPS to pay damages to couple falsely accused of child abuse

SAPS to pay damages to couple falsely accused of child abuse. Picture: File

SAPS to pay damages to couple falsely accused of child abuse. Picture: File

Published Mar 5, 2024


The hard-handed tactics used by the police to arrest a couple following claims that they had abused their children – which turned out not to be true – will cost the taxpayer dearly.

The Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, found that there was no need for the measures used by the SAPS against the couple.

The parents, who cannot be named to protect their children, were arrested at their Johannesburg home just after 7am on a Saturday morning in 2017.

A large contingent of police vehicles with a large number of policemen, some in uniform and some in plain clothes, arrived at their residence in a show of force.

They were still in bed with their one child, who was then about two years old, when the contingent of police arrived. The husband opened the door when requested to do so by the investigating officer, and his wife had to literally plead to be allowed to change from her pyjamas into suitable clothing.

The court was also told that she had to beg the SAPS to be allowed to make arrangements that her mother fetch the child before they were handcuffed, placed in unmarked police vehicles and taken to the police station.

They were cleared of all charges when it emerged that the report from a childcare organisation that pointed fingers at them for abusing their children was found by the court not to be reliable.

This was not the first time that the parents had to face the law in relation to these charges.

The woman has two children from two different fathers following previous relationships. She also has two children with her husband.

During 2012, one of the paternal grandmothers of the two children born from previous relationships made allegations of child abuse and assault against the couple. The wife’s two children were removed from their care in May 2014.

The plaintiffs were also arrested and appeared in court on regular occasions until the criminal charges against them were provisionally withdrawn.

About three years later, they were again arrested based on a report relied on by the State prosecutor, which was obtained from a children’s organisation. It is in relation to this arrest that they are now claiming damages.

The plaintiffs described this arrest as an extremely traumatic experience. They were again charged on the original complaint and charges, which were earlier provisionally withdrawn. This time, a magistrate found them not to be guilty.

Following this second arrest, the couple were detained in harrowing and filthy circumstances for two days in a police cell before they were given bail.

In claiming damages, they said their arrest and detention was unlawful.

During the evidence of both plaintiffs, they described the events which were initiated in 2012. Allegations were made against them by the paternal grandmother, which implicated them to have committed the offences of child abuse and assault.

The allegations at the time escalated and different authorities became involved, and the complaints were investigated, which resulted in a report by a childcare organisation against the couple.

While those charges were provisionally withdrawn, the woman's two children were taken away from her and each was placed with one of the grandmothers, where they are still residing.

However, the Office of the Family Advocate has revealed that one of the children’s father and paternal grandmother stated that they never had grounds to allege abuse against the couple. They said that they were told by the other grandmother to implicate the couple.

A medical practitioner also stated that he could find no signs of such physical abuse.

Thus, when the couple were yet again arrested on the same charges on the Saturday morning, they had had enough.

They complained bitterly about the “inhumane” conditions of their detention in their respective holding cells at the Mondeor Police Station and the fact that they were cuffed in front of their neighbours, while they did not resist the arrest.

In defending these allegations, the SAPS said they were merely doing their job.

The court found in favour of the couple and said there was no need for these heavy-handed tactics.

The court commented that their arrest was clearly extremely degrading and humiliating for them. It was found that the wife, especially, experienced this arrest as very traumatic.

The police were ordered to pay R200 000 in damages towards the wife and R150 000 towards the husband.

Pretoria News

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