LIABILITY OF THE STATE FOR RAPE BY A POLICEMAN: THE SAGA TAKES A NEW DIRECTION Minister of Safety and Security v F 2011 3 SA 487 (SCA)
Keywords:rape of a woman, police official, vicarious liability
The locus classicus and trend-setting decision for the vicarious liability of the state for the rape of a woman by a police official, is certainly K v Minister of Safety and Security. Here the plaintiff (K), a young woman, became stranded late at night. Three on-duty police officials, dressed in full uniform, offered to take her home in a police vehicle. On the way she was raped by all three of them. O’Regan J held that the state was vicariously liable for the conduct of the policemen. According to the standard test for vicarious liability, which was formulated in Minister of Police v Rabie, an employer may only escape vicarious liability if the employee, viewed subjectively, has not only exclusively promoted his own interests, but, viewed objectively, has also disengaged himself from the duties of his contract of employment to such an extent that a sufficiently close connection between the employee’s conduct and his employment is absent. Applying this test as informed by the constitutional Bill of Rights, O’Regan J found that although the policemen exclusively promoted their own interests by raping the plaintiff, a “sufficiently close connection” nevertheless existed between the conduct of the police and their work to hold their employer vicariously liable, for the following reasons: there was a constitutional and statutory duty on the state as well as the policemen to prevent crime and to protect members of public; the policemen offered to help the plaintiff and she acted reasonably by accepting the offer and trusting them; and the conduct of the policemen consisted simultaneously of a commissio (the brutal rape) and an omissio (their failure to protect her against the rape).
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