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Criminal justice system under scrutiny after botched arrest of Paul O’Sullivan

Police arrested O’Sullivan on Monday night but he was released several hours later after an urgent application in the High Court.

Forensic investigator Paul O'Sullivan. Picture: Tara Penny/EWN.

PRETORIA – The criminal justice system has come under serious scrutiny following the botched arrest of private investigator Paul O’Sullivan with concerns for the integrity of the police and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and calls for contempt proceedings to be started.

The police arrested O’Sullivan in Centurion on Monday night shortly after he left his attorney’s offices but was released several hours later following an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria.

The private investigator was arrested on charges related to the corruption investigation of acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phahlane.

O’Sullivan is accused of impersonating an official from the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) as well as intimidation and extortion.

His legal team said in court that they would be seeking a contempt order against the arresting officer.

Now, the Democratic Alliance (DA) says it will seek a similar order against the prosecutor who signed the warrant for the private investigator’s arrest.

The Institute for Security Studies' Gareth Newham says the police desperately need stability and management that is beyond reproach.

“Police on the ground who have the difficult job of trying to an investigation and make arrests, are simply not given the kind of support and strategic guidance they need when the top guys are busy fighting and in some cases, acting in ways that undermine public trust in our institutions.”

The South African Policing Union (Sapu) on Tuesday said the perception that the police may be used for personal agendas is not good for the image of the service.

The union adds that it will be an embarrassment for the police if it eventually emerges that they are disregarding the law they are supposed to uphold.

The police have declined to comment on the matter.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)