Arrest on suspicion which is unreasonable is unlawful

High Court of South Africa (Limpopo Division): In a judgment delivered by Mokgohloa, DJP of the High Court of South Africa, Limpopo Division, a wrongly arrested individual was granted compensation.

On 6th March, 2015 violence broke out between the members of Lebowakgomo Taxi Association and Mphahlele Taxi Association. The plaintiff was arrested and released twice in relation to the incident, albeit on different charges. It was argued by the defendants that in both cases, the apprehending officers had reasonable suspicion that the plaintiff had committed Schedule 1 offences in terms of Section 40 (1)(b) of the Criminal Procedure Act.

The Court analysed the meaning of ‘reasonable’ within the provision to assess whether the arrests were lawful or not. In this regard, the Court stated that when considering whether the suspicion was reasonable, it must be objectively clear that a reasonable man in the circumstances wherein the arresting officer finds himself would have suspected that the plaintiff had committed the offence. Further, considering that taxi violence is a far reaching issue and a prevalent offence, the suspicion of the officer making the first arrest was reasonable. However, the Court found the reasonability in the second arrest to be lacking. The officer had proceeded with the full knowledge that evidence were not against the plaintiff.

Subsequently, judgment was granted in favour of the plaintiff with costs. The Court granted damages of R100000.00 for loss of employment and status in the society due to wrongful arrest of the plaintiff and an amount of R1890136.00 for loss of income. [Matsobane Comfort Lekgothoane v. National Commissioner of SAPS, Case No. 1076 of 2016, decided on 11.07.2017]

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