Criminals making use of police vehicles and uniforms are a harsh reality in South Africa, the Supreme Court of Appeal heard on Tuesday (28/08/2012).
"It’s painful... but the harsh reality,” said JR Bauer, for Jack Coetzee, who ignored Pretoria metro police when they tried to stop him.
The SCA was hearing an appeal by the national commissioner of police against a high court costs order against the officers responsible for Coetzee’s alleged illegal detention.
The matter relates to Coetzee who drove away from metro police, who attempted to stop him, on a Sunday night. Coetzee said he was driving to the nearest police station, because he was not sure the men trying to stop him were really metro police.
He was eventually stopped and detained after also crossing a red light.
Litigation was launched in the High Court in Pretoria to get Coetzee out of police custody.
On Tuesday Bauer submitted that the police had intended to punish him by detaining him, instead of fulfilling their legitimate aims of law enforcement.
It was submitted there was evidence the police misled Coetzee’s attorney on who was in charge on the night of his detention.
Nobody could thus be reached to secure bail or Coetzee’s release.
The national police commissioner’s lawyer TP Kruger argued the high court should never have entertained the detention matter, least of all the cost aspect on the Sunday night.
Kruger submitted the high court judge could not consider the case because Coetzee never asked for bail.
"If bail was refused (the) only proper thing to handle was a bail appeal.” He submitted it was also wrong to hold a police officer in charge, who never acted in the case of the day in question, responsible for refusing bail.
Kruger said many people, such as officers on duty at the police station where Coetzee was taken, were not joined in the application before the high court, but got a cost order against them.
"I submitted the high court did not properly think on the case... it was completely wrong, its findings.” Kruger said he had never heard of the police being ordered to pay the cost in a bail application.
"Why cost came up was baffling.” Bauer said when government officials failed in their duty, a court should intervene if approached.
The application before the high court was that "police would not co-operate on the Sunday night”.
Bauer said Coetzee’s driving away from the police could be seen as reasonable.
Bauer submitted there was no other remedy the high court could take under the circumstances. Judgment was reserved. - Sapa