Director of DSC Attorneys, Chris Smit, explained in an interview with CapeTalk what to do when you’re arrested for violating lockdown regulations.
With lockdown regulations continuously changing it’s difficult to keep track of it all. The regulations seem to have only led to more ways people can get arrested if they are found in violation of them.
There have been numerous reports of confrontational interactions between civilians and the police, with unlawful arrests reaching a record high during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The National Police Commissioner is allegedly known to issue a directive to police officers, addressing the “use of force and torture” and issuing guidelines on the implementation and enforcement of directives and regulations that have been issued in terms of the Disaster Management Act.
Chris Smit says the particularly disturbing aspect of it all is the numbers of arrests for non-violations. Smit mentioned that there may still be recourse for those that have been unlawfully arrested and who have paid Admission of Guilt fines under compulsion, but adds that it will most likely depend on the circumstances.
“It is worrying when the national police commissioner has to release a directive in regard to the use of force and torture to a member of the police,” Smit said. “It is difficult for members of the public and even members of the police to stay on top of the regulations. But they are saying ignorance of the law is no excuse, so there have been, especially in the beginning of lockdown, some confusion,”.
So what do you do?
If confronted by a police officer, Smit says that your options solely depend on the situation and that it is always in your best interest to try and reason with the police officer.
- “If the police officer has decided to arrest you, there is not much you can do, even if you think you have not committed an offence. So resisting that arrest would not be the best advice.”
- “If there is an option of a fine, and the alternative is being detained. I think paying the fine would be the first option, and then later seeking legal advice to find out if that was, in fact, the case or not,” Smit said.
- Try and stay calm to avoid being manhandled or assaulted. If in fact you do get hurt, you can try and get compensation at a later stage.
- Try and remain as calm as possible and to remember as many details of the incident, for example, the police officer who has arrested you, their names and number if possible.
- Record details of any witnesses there might be in the vicinity.
- Try and take photographs of the scene. If you are injured, take photographs and then seek medical advice as soon as possible.
According to reports, there have been more than 5200 lockdown-related arrests since it began in March.