Court Watching Brief monitors 92 cases struck off court roll due to SAPS inefficiencies
Today, the Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, held a press conference on the Court Watching Brief (CWB) report for the period of 1 July - 30 September 2020. Minister Fritz outlined the number of cases monitored by the CWB Unit which were struck off the court roll due to policing inefficiencies and the way forward, with a focus on Domestic Violence (DV) and Gender Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) cases. Please see photo and graphic attached.
The CWB Unit aims to fulfil the Department of Community Safety's mandate of oversight over SAPS, as prescribed by section 206 (3) of the Constitution, by visiting courts in the province and monitoring police conduct and the effectiveness. The Unit reports on matters removed from the court roll due to police inefficiencies to ensure that they are returned to the court roll and to ensure that the necessary disciplinary action is taken.
Minister Fritz said, "I wish to commend the CWB officials on their efforts to provide oversight over SAPS. During the period under review, it has been difficult for the Unit to access courts as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and yet they continued to conduct their essential work, focusing on identified priority police stations, serious common crimes and GBVF and DV."
Courts covered by within the period under review, which include the 11 priority areas
Cases struck off the court roll
In total, the CWB Unit monitored 92 cases struck off the court roll due to SAPS' inefficiencies. Of the 92, 52 were as a result of dockets not being present at court and 40 investigations not being completed.
Amongst the concerning incidents struck off the court roll is "The State versus Simnikiwe Koyana" for the charge of possession of a firearm and ammunition, heard at Khayelitsha court. In this matter, the accused first appeared on 31 October 2019 and the matter was postponed to 11 February 2020 for further investigation. On that date, it was again postponed to 17 March 2020 as the docket was not brought to court.
The matter was later postponed to 22 April 2020 for the regional court decision. On that date, the court was closed due to a Covid-19 infection in the court. The matter was again postponed to 15 May 2020 and to 26 June 2020 for a regional court decision. On 26 June 2020, the case was eventually struck off the court roll as the docket was not at court.
Minister Fritz said, "While the pandemic has undoubtedly slowed the cogs of our 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."
GBVF and DV cases
Of the 92 cases monitored by the CWB Unit which were struck off the court roll, 66 were GBVF and DV related; and included sexual offences, domestic violence, assault and assault with intention to cause Gross Bodily Harm, contravention of a protection order, murder and attempted murder.
Among the GBVF and DV cases monitored by the CWB unit is "The State versus Riaan Leonard" which was heard at Mitchells Plain court on the charge of contravening a protection order. The accused first appeared on 14 October 2019 and was postponed until 25 November 2019 for particulars. On this date, the matter was remanded until 14 January 2020 for further investigation.
On 14 January 2020, the investigation was incomplete, and another remand followed until 14 February 2020. However, the investigation remained incomplete and a final remand was granted until 4 May 2020. On the latter date, the court was informed that the docket was not at court and another final remand was granted until 29 June 2020. On this date, the matter was struck off the court roll because the docket was not at court.
Minister Fritz said, "As a country and province, we are plagued by GBVF and DV. 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 therefore unacceptable that the strength of this tool is undermined by inefficient and ineffective police work."
Minister Fritz said, "It is not enough for my Department to perform oversight and highlight SAPS inefficiencies where they become apparent. We must flag these inefficiencies with the responsible parties and ensure that they are addressed."
Minister Fritz continued, "As such, my Department has written to the Provincial Commissioner requesting comments on the cases which were removed from the court roll. The report will be submitted, with comments from the Provincial Commissioner, if provided, to the provincial standing committee on community safety by no later than 30 December 2020."