A Limpopo businessperson who still has psychological problems after being arrested on the say-so of petrol attendants who accused him of buying petrol with fake money must be compensated for his ordeal, a High Court in Pretoria judge has ruled.
Acting Judge Nomfundo Ntloko-Gobodo yesterday ruled that 38-year-old Louis Trichardt businessman Tuan Oosthuizen’s arrest at a local petrol station in May 2011 had been unlawful.
Ntloko-Gobodo ordered that the police minister must compensate him for such damages as he could prove at a later stage.
Oosthuizen sued the minister for R400,000 in damages, claiming he was arrested without a warrant and without being informed why; he was never informed of his rights or given a chance to consult with a lawyer or even to receive visitors or a doctor.
He alleged the police threatened, victimised and assaulted him at the Makhado police station and that he had to appear in court three times before the charge was withdrawn almost three months later because of a lack of evidence.
He claimed he suffered mental anguish and emotional shock and trauma; had to receive medical and hospital treatment and still experienced psychological problems; could not work for a while; was thereafter permanently and partially disabled; and he suffered a loss of earnings and amenities of life.
The police opposed Oosthuizen’s claim, insisting he was arrested after the petrol attendants laid a complaint that he had used three counterfeit R100 notes. When asked about the money, he produced a balance enquiry from the ATM at the garage but no balance statement, convincing them he was lying, and they also found R1,000 more in counterfeit money in his bag, they said.
He denied telling the police he had withdrawn money and insisted he had paid with a R100 and two R50 notes, was shoved into a police van without being questioned, and then saw the cashier taking a roll of bank notes from his pocket and placing it on the bonnet of the police van together with three R100 notes.
The police admitted that Oosthuizen’s rights were never read to him and he was arrested on the petrol attendants’ word.
The judge found the police had failed to established a reasonable suspicion for Oosthuizen’s arrest, as was required of them.