A couple that was arrested on May 4 for contravening lockdown regulations when their toddler ran onto the beach, is now pursuing legal action against SAPS on the basis of irrational behaviour and abuse with regards to the way the arrest was handled.
Muizenberg residents Liam Bulgen and fiancée, Tereza Cervinkova, were strolling along the Muizenberg boardwalk on Monday morning [May 4] in the middle of the promenade before the incident occurred.
“My fiancée wanted some space so I thought I would just stop with my child, who is 21 months old, and take her out of the carrier,” Bulgen told EWN.
“As I put her down out of the carrier, she literally just hopped over onto the beach and she managed to get about 1.5 metres onto the sand. I ran after her and grabbed her.
“She made a scene. My partner came back because she heard her crying. We were literally in the process of dragging my child off the sand when we got arrested.”
Due to lockdown Level 4 regulations stating that no one is allowed on the beach, police arrested the couple immediately. Charges against the couple have since been withdrawn but they feel something needs to be done with regards to how SAPS handled the arrest and the incident as a whole.
According to a document that was sent to various senior members of SAPS last week, police authorities have been given until Friday, June 5 to provide an undertaking.
Among other things, the document details the irrational behaviour of SAPS officers and their abusive behaviour during the arrest of the couple. Despite there being no urgency, arresting officers allegedly refused to allow Tereza to continue breastfeeding in a safe environment and insisted that she be arrested and breastfeed her daughter in the police vehicle. The couple were also separated during the arrest.
A number of requests to have their child picked up by a family member were allegedly denied, with the officer in charge reportedly saying that anyone who tried to pick up their daughter would be arrested. When family did arrive to fetch the child, they were allegedly turned away and threatened with arrest. Despite the conduct being in the best interest of the child and not breaching regulations, the family was denied the option of allowing their child to be moved to a safe environment.
Other concerns include that the police had arrested a suspect just four days prior to the incident who had tested positive for COVID-19. In spite of this, a number of officers at the station allegedly failed to wear proper personal protective gear.
Colonel Naidoo, who was handling the couple’s case, is said to have come into contact with the suspect who tested positive but allegedly failed to wear proper protective gear while interacting with the couple or take any formal steps following his contact with the infected person.
Throughout the incident the couple were allegedly exposed to harassment and intimidation, including an interrogation in a small room where Naidoo did not wear protective gear.
The incident has since prompted Tereza, who is a citizen of the Czech Republic, to request repatriation following the severe stress and anxiety her family was submitted to.
This is not the only case in which SAPS officers have allegedly incorrectly handled a lockdown regulation incident, and the lives of the family are now changed forever.
Liam will stay behind to see the case through while his family leaves for the Czech Republic. He may not see them for the next six months or longer.
The family and their lawyers are requesting that a proper investigation into the incident be done and that those who acted improperly be addressed and disciplined for their actions.