Friday, May 6, 2011

Unlawfully Arrested

Unlawful arrest:  Case No. CAS 225 / 04 / 2011
Mike Johnson, 78, writes on 

re: The Carte Blanche programme on Sunday evening May 1 2011, during which Mr. Watts asked anyone who was unlawfully arrested, to bring it to the attention of Carte Blanche.--     
Eighteen years ago my wife and I decided to play our part in combating crime by creating employment for disadvantaged people. Undoubtedly any unemployed person with dependents to feed will inevitably turn to crime, rather than see them die a slow agonizing death due to starvation. We therefore created a cost effective advertising agency: In-Touch Mailing. Not only to provide an income for those we employ directly, but also for the budding entrepreneur wanting to establish his own business. However, our efforts are often misjudged and thwarted by those that are comfortably employed.         
Two weeks ago, on the morning of Thursday 7 April 2011, I was apprehended at gunpoint on a public road in Vorna Valley by two Police Officers. When I asked the reason for my apprehension, I was told it was a 'routine Police search for illegal drugs.' 

I, together with my four co-workers, were ‘frisked’ and the vehicle searched. Although nothing illegal was found, my vehicle keys and digital camera were confiscated. I was informed that I was under arrest, ordered into the Police van and transported to the Midrand Police Station; followed by co-workers in my vehicle, driven by the other police officer. 

After conferring with the Station Commander, Colonel Steven Moodley and receiving his consent. I was taken to the holding cells and charged with: ‘Police Interference While on Duty and Resisting Arrest’. I was advised of my constitutional rights in terms of: Section 35 of Act No. 108 of 1996. I was ordered to empty my pockets and remove my belt and shoe laces, (allegedly to prevent me from committing suicide).

I was then approached by a detective wanting to take a statement and take my fingerprints. I advised him that I wished to exercise my right to remain silent and to be informed at my first court appearance of the reason for my arrest, whereupon he immediately left the room. Fortunately, during the time I was being ‘processed’, I managed to make a quick cell phone call to my wife before it was confiscated. I advised her of my predicament and requested her to visit Colonel Moodley at the police station ASAP. 

My wife Margaret, arrived at the police station, accompanied by our 8 year old granddaughter, and enquired as to the reason for my detention. She was told that I was being 'uncooperative in that I refused to have my fingerprints taken or to signing the charge sheet'. She then came up to the holding cells to confer with me. Both Margaret and the granddaughter, were deeply distressed and traumatized to see me behind bars. They pleaded with me to sign the documents so that I could return home. 

However, we were then told we would also have to pay R500 bail. Neither of us had this amount available and Margaret returned home to borrow the amount from our eldest son. By the time she returned, it was late evening and the night shift had taken over at the police station. 

My finger prints were taken and I was presented with a lengthy statement to sign, which I did not read, and as I was signing it under duress, I added the word ‘without prejudice’ below each signature. I was released shortly thereafter, having spent approximately eleven hours in detention.

Friday 8 April I presented myself to the Midrand Magistrate’s Court as instructed.  I reported to the Public Prosecutors’ office with the Charge Sheet in hand to confirm my presence and to establish in which court my case would be held. The Public Prosecutor to whom I handed the document was highly amused when he saw the charges brought against me, and wanted to know what I did, at the age of 77 (correction 78 years of age) did in order to resist arrest: I said: “particularly when I was outnumbered two to one, and one of the officers was carrying a very serious looking automatic combat weapon and I was totally unarmed!”

I was told that the dockets from the police station hadn’t arrived and that I should take a seat in the reception area. Within 20 minutes the public prosecutor came to me in the reception area and told me that the charges against me had been withdrawn and that I was free to go. I asked him please to confirm this in writing on the charge sheet, to avoid any future repercussions which might occur; this he did.

I revisited the public prosecutor on the following Monday morning in an attempt to have the case reinstated.  Although this sounded like an odd request, I felt I had been deprived of the opportunity of challenging the charges brought against me. After spending a whole day in jail, I felt I had earned the right to a free and fair trial and also the opportunity to expose corruption in the police force. However this request was denied, the decision was made and could not be reversed.

It seems to me that police use bully tactics to extract a confession from a suspect, and the 48 hour detention period to extract ‘bail’. If, however, the suspect shows his willingness to contest the action in court and there’s any possibility of exposing corruption, the police will simply withdraw all charges. Leaving the accused and his family extremely traumatized and usually out of pocket. 

Foot Note: 'Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance'. 

Many thanks and kind regards, 
Mike Johnson. 

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