MAN RAPED IN PRISON CELL DUE TO POLICE NEGLIGENCE IS AWARDED COMPENSATION

Judgement was delivered in Cape Town on 9 December 2019 in a case where the plaintiff claimed compensation in the amount of R520 000 from the Minister of Police for pain and suffering and future psychological treatment after being raped in the Goodwood police cells during December 2012.

The Incident

The plaintiff, who wants to remain anonymous to protect his identity, was raped in the Goodwood police cells after he was arrested on November 30, 2012 for theft. He was detained in the same cell as another man, who was detained earlier after being picked up in Goodwood for the possession of a dangerous weapon, a 20 cm long blade. After he was raped on the morning of 1 December 2012, he was too scared, while in the presence of the perpetrator, to tell the police officer on duty what happened, but later confessed to his family when they visited him. He was taken to a different cell and sent for a medical examination. The perpetrator was later successfully convicted of the rape and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment.

The Law

According to clause 13(1) of the SAPS Standing Order on the Safe Custody and Handling of Persons in Custody, where possible, detainees should be separated according to the nature of their offences, such as violent crimes. According to The Dangerous Weapons Act 15 of 2013, the fact that the rapist was in possession of a dangerous weapon at the time of his arrest, meant that a reasonable suspicion existed that he would use the weapon for unlawful purposes, which expressed a propensity of being a danger towards others.   Police officers also have a duty of care towards the people in their custody. It transpired that the plaintiff was also a gay man and should have been placed in a different sell based on gender distinction as well as the fact that the perpetrator had a violent crime history and his record should have been checked for previous offences when he was admitted.  

The Judgement

It was found that the SAPS failed to take reasonable or adequate steps to prevent the assault when they should have done so. They assumed he was not violent, which was the direct cause of the suffering and psychological trauma endured by the plaintiff. The police could have foreseen possible harm and needed to devote time to gathering information surrounding his arrest. The plaintiff was assisted by Advocate Lara Joubert and his attorney Collette Julyan, a personal injury lawyer from Simpsons Attorneys, and was awarded damages and a cost award in his favour.
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