Sad farewell after charges are dropped

Tereza Cervinkova and her daughter Florence.

Charges against a Muizenberg couple whose toddler ran onto the beach during the exercise period in lockdown level 4 have been dropped after their defence lawyer made representations to the state prosecutor.

Liam Bulgen and his fiancée,Tereza Cervinkova, were charged with contravening the Disaster Management Act Regulations on Monday May 4 during a walk along the boardwalk with their daughter, Florence.

Florence ran onto the beach after being removed from her stroller. Mr Bulgen had chased after her and she had sat down on the sand and had had a tantrum.

Ms Cervinkova, who was walking ahead, had rushed over to help and that was when they were arrested.

Court papers presented by their lawyer to prosecutor William Daniels, say the couple do not want to become embroiled in unnecessary litigation or seek an adverse costs order against the police, but Ms Cervinkova suffered great distress and anxiety, and she and Florence were repatriated to the Czech Republic on Saturday June 6.

According to the papers, Muizenberg police officers didn’t wear masks during the arrest and interrogation and they intimidated the couple, saying they would get criminal records and wouldn’t be able to apply for jobs in future. They also allegedly told Ms Cervinkova, a Czech national, she would not be able to renew her visa.

Police also allegedly refused to let Mr Bulgen’s mother and sister fetch the couple’s daughter at the police station despite knowing a person being held there had allegedly tested positive for Covid-19.

Furthermore, others in greater Muizenberg had accused the police of intimidation, harassment, and, in some cases, assault, pointing to a pattern of irrational and inconsistent enforcement of the Covid-19 regulations in the area.

Among other things, the court papers call for SAPS to respond in writing by Friday June 5 to requests for an investigation by the police and the police
ombudsman into the incident and others like it as well as the conduct of station commander and arresting officer Colonel Vassie
Naidoo and other Muizenberg police officers; that they report on their findings within 30 days of Friday June 5; that appropriate disciplinary steps be taken against members found to have acted negligently; and that SAPS direct all employees to abide by the Constitution.

Mr Bulgen said while they were relieved the charges had been withdrawn, the damage had been done and he would only see Ms Cervinkova and Florence in six months.

“Their safety and well-being is my only priority now,” he said.

On Monday June 8, Mr Bulgen said the police had made representations as per the couple’s request but he was not satisfied with their response and would meet with his lawyer to discuss the way forward.

Colonel Naidoo said he was not aware of such representations, had not seen any documentation and had not been asked to respond to anything.

But Muizenberg police spokesman, Captain Stephen Knapp, confirmed that the charges against the couple had been dropped after representations had been made by the couple’s defence lawyer.