Contempt of court — What constitutes — Failure of police to render assistance with execution of civil order of High Court — Order providing that assistance had to be given by police if requested by sheriff — No request made by sheriff in instant case — Contempt of court not proven.


The applicant applied for an order for the committal of the Minister of Police and the station commander of the South African Police Service (SAPS) at Rustenburg for contempt of court for the failure by the police to serve a court order prohibiting the applicant’s former spouse from removing their minor child from South Africa. The order granted by the High Court provided that the sheriff could enlist the assistance of SAPS to give effect to the order. The applicant and his legal team immediately attempted to serve the order on SAPS at Rustenburg, but complained that the police were uncooperative. It appeared that the applicant’s former wife managed to take the child to Botswana.

Held, that the primary responsibility for the execution of court orders is that of the sheriff of the High Court concerned. The order of the court directing the police to assist the sheriff, should he request assistance, was made specifically because it was not the responsibility of SAPS to execute civil orders of the High Court. Their duty was only to render assistance to the sheriff if this were requested. As no such request had been made, there was no merit in the applicant’s application to find the respondents guilty of contempt of court. The application had to be dismissed.


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