An overzealous police officer who confiscated the entire stock of alcohol held by popular Pretoria east pub and restaurant Padstal has to immediately return the booze.
The stock has until now been held in storage at the Silverton police station.
The order was handed down by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, and followed an urgent application by the owners of Padstal in Equestria.
The police swooped on the popular spot on July 15 during level 3 of the lockdown when the selling of liquor was still prohibited.
On the day, the police arrested an employee of Padstal for either selling or distributing two bottles of brandy to a patron.
The two bottles were seized by the police and charges of contravening the lockdown regulations were instituted against the employee, one Mr Phillips. These charges are still pending before court.
The police, however, did not leave it there that day, and without a search warrant, entered the restaurant where they searched for more alcohol in a back storeroom.
They then confiscated the entire stock.
The owners of the establishment said their stock never formed part of any contravention of the lockdown regulations, as it was merely in their stockroom and not being sold.
They said the public did not have access to this stock.
They also said that the alcohol stock was not under the control of Phillips and in the absence of the owners being on the premises at the time, the police had no right to take it.
The two bottles of brandy allegedly sold also did not form part of the property seized from the storeroom.
The owners said apart from this, the police had refused to furnish the owners with a detailed list of how much alcohol they took, and they refused to supply reasons for seizing it.
The court was told that notwithstanding requests from the lawyers as to where the seized goods were and how many bottles were taken, the police remained mum on the subject.
The police, in turn, said in light of the two bottles of brandy which were sold, they were entitled to confiscate the entire stock.
This, they said, was because they believed all the other alcohol was part of “the commission of an offence”.
The court held that the alcohol kept in the storeroom had nothing to do with the two bottles of brandy which were allegedly illegally sold and the police had no right to take the stock.
The police were ordered to hand back the stock within 48 hours.