Police slackness blamed for injustices in Cape Town courts

Almost 100 criminal cases, mostly gender-based violence cases, had been struck off the roll in Cape Town recently due to police inefficiencies.
Almost 100 criminal cases, mostly gender-based violence cases, had been struck off the roll in Cape Town recently due to police inefficiencies.
Image: 123RF/Stockstudio44

At least 92 criminal cases in some of Cape Town’s crime hotspots have been struck off the court roll in the past three months – allegedly thanks to police slackness.

Releasing the latest court-watching brief report on Wednesday, community safety MEC Albert Fritz revealed that of the 92 cases, 66 were gender-based and domestic-related matters. They also included assault cases and assault with intention to cause gross bodily harm, contravention of protection orders, murder and attempted murder.

Courts that were monitored by the unit between July and September include Bishop Lavis, Delft, Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Gugulethu, Mfuleni, Mitchells Plain, Nyanga and Ravensmead.

The court-watching brief unit monitors criminal cases struck off the roll as a result of police inefficiencies. Where cases are struck off because of systemic failures, these are captured and reported to the provincial police commissioner to ensure remedial action is taken.

Of the total cases, 52 were struck off the roll because of dockets not being present at court and in 40 cases investigations had not been completed.

Among the most concerning was a case involving a man charged with illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, which was initially heard at Khayelitsha court.

In this matter, the accused first appeared on October 31 2019. The matter was postponed five times, first to February 2020 for further investigation, again in March, April, May and June. On June 26 it was struck off the regional court roll because the docket had not been brought to court eight months later. 

Fritz said while the Covid-19 pandemic had undoubtedly slowed the cogs of the criminal justice system, "it is inexcusable that someone who allegedly poses a threat to the lives of others be allowed to roam the streets freely. These charges are serious, and it is unacceptable that dockets are not present at court.”

Among the gender-based and domestic violence cases monitored by the unit was a case heard at Mitchells Plain court on the charge of contravening a protection order. The accused first appeared on October 14 last year. The investigation remained incomplete and several remands were granted. After the docket was still not brought to court, a final remand was granted until June 29. On the latter date the case was struck off the roll as the docket was still not at court.

Fritz said: “As a country and province, we are plagued by gender-based violence and femicide and domestic violence. We must work together at every level government, using every tool at our disposal to ensure that women feel safe and equal.

“Protection orders are an essential tool in this regard. It is unacceptable that the strength of this tool is undermined by inefficient and ineffective police work.”

Fritz said his department has written to provincial commissioner Lt-Gen Yolisa Matakata requesting comments on the cases which were removed from the court roll. The report would then be submitted, with comments from Matakata, to the provincial standing committee on community safety by the end of this year.

TimesLIVE


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