Friday, July 1, 2022

Wronged teacher wins case against police over privacy invasion

Francistown High Court Judge, Justice Kholisani Solo, last week ruled in favour of William Molefe, a middle aged man of Gaborone who launched a P200 000 law suit against the police for invading his privacy.

Giving his testimony before court, Molefe, who is a teacher by profession, said that on the 11 of September in 2011 while sleeping with his girlfriend, police officers broke into his house accompanied by three men who took photographs of him and his girlfriend naked.

He said that as he remained puzzled, the officers asked him what he was doing with a married woman.
“One of the men identified himself as John Esterhuizen, and said that he is the husband to my girlfriend,” he said.

The plaintiff said that he then attempted to hide in a closet in order to avoid flashes of the camera as he was naked and added that one of the police officers pulled the door of the closet open and constantly blamed him for sleeping with a married woman.

“The police officers made no attempts to stop the photographing session by these men and I was not told the nature of the police attendance in my house,” testified Molefe.

He said that after the drama, he was together with his girlfriend taken to the police station. The plaintiff said that upon arrival, Esterhuizen promised to sue him for sleeping with his wife. He added that to his amazement, on the 16 of September 2011 he saw his nude pictures together with his girlfriend on the front page of a local newspaper.

In defence, Sergeant Kedidimetse Sabone, then police section leader on the day, said that they received a report from John Esterhuizen who told them that his wife was refusing to open the door at their matrimonial home. She said that he (Estherhuizen) demanded the police to accompany him to the house and threatened to take the law into his own hands if they did not accede to his request.

“I then released police officers to accompany Estherhuizen to the house, and upon their return I learnt that the house was not his, but belonged to the plaintiff. I immediately generated paperwork against him for giving false information to the police and opened a case of criminal trespass against him,” she said.

Pronouncing judgement, Justice Solo said that the plaintiff was indecently exposed and his dignity impaired. He said such conduct should be discouraged especially if done by police officers.

“The issue is whether the police were led to believe that the house belonged to Estherhuizen. It must, however, be borne in mind that the onus is on the plaintiff to prove his case on balance of probabilities,” said the presiding Judge.

He added that carefully examining the plaintiff‘s evidence and the manner he was treated, he found his evidence consistent and credible. He also said that the plaintiff stood his ground on cross examination. The judge further agreed with the plaintiff’s attorney, Mishingo Jeremia, who stated that if the police were under a mistaken belief that they were going to Estherhuizen’s house that aspect should have been pleaded.

“I also agree with the plaintiff’s counsel that from the totality of the evidence, their actions were not consistent with those of officers who were innocently misled and had only come to prevent the commission of a crime, if any. I find that the plaintiff has proved his case on a balance of probabilities,” he said.

In conclusion the judge referred the matter to the Court Registrar for assessment of damages.

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