An insult to the legal system
THERE has been much angry public opprobrium concerning the perceived abuse of Section 204 of the Criminal Procedure Act by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in giving complete indemnity from prosecution for major criminal offences such as murder. Many angry people regard such actions by the NPA as a willful besmirching of our legal system when self-confessed murderers completely escape justice. It is unforgivable and outrageous.
The NPA deserves to be condemned when its prosecution in trials is substandard and for questionable legal procedures, but what has gone under the radar is the part the judiciary plays in the prosecuting authority’s equally contentious and overused plea-bargaining tactic. Judge Frans Kgomo had no option but to grant Section 204 indemnity to the evil trio of contracted Kebble murderers, having considered their evidence to be truthful. Section 204s should be used sparingly though, and with great circumspection.
Let us also not lose sight of the equally contentious plea-bargaining procedure. There is a strong perception that the Bench rarely challenges the prosecution on laxity of a plea-bargained sentence, which is its right and absolute duty to do.
Granting cosy sentencing deals to despicable Schedule 3 criminals has an inherent systemic weakness in that perpetrators are sorely tempted to accept the state’s offer of leniency in return for their collaborative evidence in court and to tell their interrogators what they want to hear.