Govt surrenders in war museum arrest case

Articles to help you counter hoplophobic arguments.

Moderator: GenMod

Govt surrenders in war museum arrest case

Postby GOSA » Wed, 2009-04-15 11:23

See and ... &sn=Detail

Govt surrenders in war museum arrest case
Moray Hathorn
11 March 2009

Minsters of defence and safety & security concede liability over
wrongful detention of Keene, Henry and Blendulf

John Keene, Richard Henry and Susanne Blendulf v The Minister of
Safety and Security and The Minister of Defence: Gauteng High Court,
Pretoria, Case No: 37587/2005

1. On 13 January 2005 a Captain Molapo of the SAPS and a
fight-sergeant Banda of the SANDF conducted an investigation at the
South African National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold which
culminated in the arrest and detention of

1.1 Mr John Keene, the director of the South African National Museum
of Military History;

1.2 Mr Richard Henry, the curator of Armoured Fighting Vehicles and of
small arms at the museum;

1.3 Ms Susanne Blendulf, curator of the Insignia, Memorial Plaques,
Postal History Collections and the Editor of the South African Journal
of Military History; allegedly on grounds that the museum was in
possession of 6 stolen armoured vehicles.

2. The function of the Museum is to collect items of military heritage
and history and to maintain these for exhibition to the public and for
educational purposes. Together with the Transvaal Museum and the
Transvaal Museum the South African National Museum of Military History
forms part of the Northern Flagship institution created in terms of
the Cultural Institutions Act No 119 of 1998. It is recognised as one
of the best museums of its type in the world.

3. Mr Keene, Mr Henry and Ms Blendulf were held overnight at the
Kameeldrift Police Station, Pretoria . Mr Keene who had had an
operation on 12 January to repair a detached retina had to undergo a
further emergency operation on 14 January 2005 in consequence of his
retina re- detaching during his detention.

On the morning of 14 January 2005 Mr Henry and Ms Blendulf were
released at the Johannesburg Magistrates' Court after being informed
by Mr Anil Singh the legal representative of the Departments of Arts
and Culture that the State Prosecutor had declined to prosecute. Mr
Keene was released later in the day after completion of his eye
operation. He had been kept shackled to his hospital bed. He suffered
further consequential damage to his eye and has lost sight in that
eye. Ms Blendulf suffered acute post traumatic stress. [For a fuller
account see here - Ed]

4. Mr Keene, Mr Henry and Ms Blendulf were represented by Advocates
Paul Pretorius SC, Michelle Augustine and John Peters, instructed by
Webber Wentzel, at the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in an action for
damages on grounds of unlawful arrest and detention and in respect of
the consequences to the health of Mr Keene and Ms Blendulf arising
from the arrest and detention.

5. The trial commenced on 4 March 2009 before Acting Judge Sapire and
was completed on 10 March 2009. At the trial evidence was led on
behalf of the Plaintiffs. On Mr Henry's evidence it was clear that the
museum's acquisition of military vehicles and artillery pieces was
fully documented and accounted for and that the investigating officers
had been fully apprised of this during their investigation.

One of the more shocking pieces of evidence, amongst many, to emerge
at the trial was the evidence that flight sergeant Banda had on the
night of the arrest at Kameeldrift Police Station ceremoniously held
up and switched off his cell phone when Mr Keene's attorney, Mr Barry
Whitter, had asked for his cell phone number so that he could be
contactable for purposes of arranging a bail application during the
course of the night of 13 January 2005.

6. Another shocking piece of evidence which emerged was that the
entreaties of Mr Whitter that a district surgeon be summoned for the
purposes of obtaining his consent for the administration of Mr Keene's
medication by his wife who was present at the police station, was

7. In addition, Mr Keene was kept shackled to the stretcher when taken
to the Pretoria Eye Institute in the early hours of 14 January and was
kept shackled to his hospital bed before and after his emergency eye
operation. A police guard was posted in his ward to watch him.

8. At the conclusion of Mr Henry's evidence the Ministers of Safety
and Security and Defence, without leading any of their witnesses,
conceded liability and made a tender of settlement in the following

8.1 "In full and final settlement of all the claims of whatsoever
nature, by each of the Plaintiffs against the Defendants, and the
Second Defendant conceding the merits of the Plaintiffs' claims
regarding their arrest on the grounds of unlawful possession of stolen
military vehicles and artillery pieces and acknowledging that such
military property was not stolen and that the South African National
Museum of Military History acted lawfully in regard to all such
property, and without further admissions;

8.2 And that the Defendants shall pay the sum of R475 000 and party to
party costs limited to:

8.2.1 There being no attorneys fees (the attorneys performing the work
pro bono); only attorneys disbursements, including the qualifying fees
of the Plaintiffs experts, the total of such disbursements and
qualifying fees not exceeding R20 000.

8.2.2 Fees of senior and one junior counsel.

8.3 The Defendants shall pay the capital sum by 14 April 2009, failing
which the contents hereof shall be made an order of court."

9. Mr Keene, Mr Henry and Ms Blendulf accepted the offer as tendered
by the Ministers. More important to them than the financial aspect of
the settlement as agreed, was the fact that the settlement vindicates
their good names and that of the museum, establishes the unlawfulness
of their arrests and vindicates the lawfulness of their actions and
those of the museum.

10. Upon being informed of the settlement Acting Judge Sapire, made
the following comments:

10.1 In addition an apology by the Defendants to Mr Keene, Mr Henry
and Ms Blendulf would have been the proper and gentlemanly thing to
have been done;

10.2 The judge observed that too many cases were coming before the
Gauteng High Court where there is a lack of discretion in effecting
arrests by arresting officers. He stressed that the power to arrest
should be used with discretion, particularly in cases such as this,
where the Plaintiffs were palpably venerable and good public citizens.

10.3 The judge continued that there are ways of securing the
attendance of an accused person in court other than arrest. In too
many cases, before the Gauteng High Court the power of arrest is used
as a punishment in itself and not a manner to procure attendance in

10.4 The judge further expressed his grave disquiet that senior
people, including the Ministers themselves, had not attended the
proceedings in order to apprise themselves at first hand of what had
happened. The judge stressed that the people in charge of the case
should have been present to see how their unilateral statements are
dealt with in court and in other cases of this nature. In that way, a
lot of public money could be saved. He wanted this message to go down
from the highest ranking members of the police to every constable.

10.5 Counsel for the Defendants stated that he had written memoranda
to the senior legal advisors of the Ministers pointing out the
shortcomings in the investigation in this case by Captain Molapo and
flight sergeant Banda. He suggested that the state attorney should
prepare a series of lectures for arresting officers by judges.

10.6 The judge stated that this case was a matter of public interest
and that the public should know what had happened in this court. He
said that he was speaking these words deliberately in public, and that
his words should be heeded.

Statement issued by Webber Wentzel, Johannesburg, March 11 2009
What have YOU done for YOUR rights today?
Site Admin
Posts: 1598
Joined: Sun, 2006-01-29 15:42
Location: South Africa

Return to Educational Articles

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest