Lawyer wants state to fit police vans with seat belts

Police vans
Police vans
Image: Mabuti Kali

A Limpopo lawyer has taken the Minister of Police to Polokwane High Court to force him to put seat belts and comfortable seats on police vans and trucks that transport arrested people.

The Limpopo-based Tebeila Institute of Leadership, Education, Governance and Training's director, Advocate Shadrack Tebeila, yesterday challenged the constitutionality of the "use of police vans and trucks without seats and seat belts" to transport arrested persons.

Tebeila asked the high court to declare the use of police vans and police trucks without seats and seat belts unconstitutional and invalid.

"The said use of police vans and trucks violates the rights of the suspects and arrested persons, such as the right to human dignity and the right not to be treated in a cruel, inhumane and degrading manner as protected by the constitution," he said.

"[This] constitutes a torture of some kind because while they are kept at the back, the suspects may sustain injuries in instances of negligent driving or unexpected stopping of the said car."

Tebeila argued that there was a high risk of serious injuries in cases where the police vehicles were driven at high speed.

According to the National Traffic Act, it is not an offence to carry people in a van or truck.

But Tebeila insisted that vans and trucks were meant to transport goods and not human beings.

State lawyer William Mkhari said Tebeila had failed to point out factually how dignity was affected by mere transportation as alleged.

"I still persist that the alleged mode of transportation does not in anyway violate anyone's rights as alleged. It is difficult to imagine the mere conveyance of arrested or suspected persons in and by itself can amount to torture or cruelty," he said.

Mkhari said Tebeila was complaining about road safety issues in the abstract and inviting the court to make a finding.

"The applicants do not even allege that anyone has been injured in this process of conveying arrestees and suspects. Much less they don't even allege that they themselves have been injured in the process or provide the court with statistics in this regards," he argued.

Judge Gerrit Muller reserved judgment on the matter.

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