Father arrested for rushing to buy baby formula during curfew to sue police

AfriForum’s head of private prosecutions, Gerrie Nel, described the manner in which the police handled the case of a father who was arrested for rushing to hospital to buy baby formula, as ‘appalling’.
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A Centurion father, who was arrested for rushing to a nearby hospital during curfew hours to buy formula milk for his newborn baby, is planning to sue the SA Police Service and the officers who detained him for unlawful arrest.

“We are going to proceed with a civil claim against the relevant police officers and we are filing a formal complaint at the police commissioner and other relevant authorities,” said Naas le Roux’s lawyer Lily Rautenbach during a media briefing held by AfriForum on Monday.

Rautenbach would not say what exactly the claim entailed. She would only confirm filing among others, an unlawful arrest civil suit.

She would also not disclose how much Le Roux would be suing the police for.

The decision to file a civil suit comes after charges against Le Roux were withdrawn when the matter was referred to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for a decision on whether to proceed with the case.

Le Roux had gone to a pharmacy at Netcare Unitas hospital at about 1am two weeks ago to buy formula milk for his two-day-old baby.

The baby was born on January 6. Both the mother and baby were discharged from hospital on January 7.

When they were at home, the mother, according to AfriForum, struggled to breastfeed the baby and Le Roux rushed to the hospital to get formula.

On his way back, he was stopped by the police. He was detained and apparently spent the night with others in a cell.

AfriForum’s advocate Gerrie Nel described the conduct of the police as “appalling”.

“I would like to compliment the NPA for the way in which they dealt with this particular case. The way they dealt with the case is in contrast to the irrational and abusive means in which the SAPS conducted themselves in the monitoring of Covid-19 regulations.

“While I am critical of the policemen that affected arrest, I must emphasise a more appalling conduct of their commanders,” he said.

“This must be one of the greatest and deliberate derelictions of duty we’ve come across.”

Nel said the police “deliberately” rejected evidence that Le Roux and Rautenbach presented to prove his innocence.

“After studying the invoices for the purchase of the milk, they discarded information they should have included in the docket that would have shown the innocence of Mr Le Roux.

“If it was not for our actions, the prosecutor would not have known of the existence of the evidence. It’s this evidence the NPA used in its decision not to enrol the matter,” Nel said.

Newborn dad’s desperate dash for baby formula ends in curfew arrest

“It was inevitable that mistakes would be made in enforcing Covid-19 regulations, but in this instance there is no angle to argue that a mistake was made.

“This was no mistake. It was deliberate, malicious and must be likened to what one of the arresting officers said to Mr Le Roux: ‘We will teach you a lesson.’”

Le Roux said he was happy that the case was withdrawn, but was still traumatised by the incident.

“It’s a traumatic event, especially afterwards when you look at the effect it would have on your children when they look at you.

“It was very disappointing to see what the police did. When you expect them to help you, it’s really the opposite. We hope to move on. We take it day by day. It’s something you wish to forget, but it sticks in your mind … when you are at work, when you see other police vehicles going past you.”

Asked if he would accept an apology and whether it would be enough, Le Roux said: “An apology will not serve the purpose. It can help. I can’t see that it will make everything disappear.”

BY Nomahlubi Jordaan

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