Judge Sulet Potterill yesterday ordered the Minister of Police to compensate Louis Sutherland for his ordeal four years ago.
Sutherland was arrested and held in custody for three days after his former wife, Sindi, with whom he was embroiled in divorce proceedings at the time, accused him of taking her personal belongings, leaving her without a heater or blanket in the cold.
She had previously obtained a family violence order against her husband which meant he could be arrested if he endangered her.
Judge Potterill said although domestic violence was not to be taken lightly, Sutherland’s arrest and detention had clearly been unlawful because of the poor discretion of the arresting officer.
Sutherland was locked up in an unhygienic police cell with no water or working toilet and a shower filled with human faeces.
He was left in the bitter cold without a blanket or jacket and was given only a mattress when he complained.
He was so cold and stressed that it exaggerated his existing high blood pressure and heart condition, resulting in him being rushed to hospital.
He remained in intensive care for three days, while constantly being guarded by two policemen.
He was so ill that his cardiologist didn’t want to release him, but he released himself under risk because he wanted to get the criminal matter over.
He was taken to court under police guard, where he was locked up in a cell with 15 other awaiting-trial prisoners and forced to stand up for over two hours because the cell was overcrowded.
When his case was called, Sutherland was told he was free to go.
Judge Potterill described the filth, stench and humiliation Sutherland had to endure in the cell as so “horrific” that he ended up in ICU, where he was guarded as if he was “a real criminal”.
She awarded him R120 000 damages and ordered the police to pay interest on the amount, as well as Sutherland’s legal costs.