Drunk tank slammed


The Citizen (Gauteng) - - NEWS - Chi­som Jen­nif­fer Okoye –jen­nif­fero@ci­ti­zen.co.za

Jus­tice Project vows that if ap­proved, it will fight pro­posal tooth and nail.

Plans to change the law to have drunk drivers spend seven days be­hind bars be­fore be­ing el­i­gi­ble for bail are un­likely to suc­ceed and could face con­sid­er­able le­gal back­lash if im­ple­mented.

The Jus­tice Project South Africa (JPSA) said if the pro­posal sub­mit­ted to the depart­ment of jus­tice by the Road Traf­fic Man­age­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (RTMC) was ap­proved, it would “fight it tooth and nail”.

The RTMC de­manded that driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence (DUI), speed­ing and reck­less or neg­li­gent driv­ing be re­clas­si­fied in the Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure Act.

It ar­gued that drunk and neg­li­gent driv­ing ac­counted for the most ar­rests made by the JMPD monthly and pro­posed the of­fences be up­graded from sched­ule 2 to sched­ule 5 of­fence. This would see drunk drivers be­ing treated in the same way as those ac­cused of se­ri­ous crimes, such as rape, mur­der, theft and fraud.

The RTMC also pro­posed that of­fend­ers be de­tained for up to seven days be­fore they could be con­sid­ered for bail.

Cur­rent law al­lows for de­tainees to be granted bail in a mat­ter of hours af­ter ar­rest.

Al­though the RTMC pro­posal was de­liv­ered to the depart­ment a few years ago, dis­cus­sions on the pro­posal have only re­cently gained trac­tion.

“That pro­posal dates back to when Dipuo Peters was min­is­ter… Re­cently there was a meet­ing to re­vive the dis­cus­sion about this pro­posal and take it for­ward – that is how far it is at this stage,” said Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Ma­sutha’s spokesper­son, Mukoni Rat­shi­tanga.

JPSA na­tional chair­per­son Howard Dem­bovsky said there was no pro­vi­sion in South African law for the South African Po­lice Ser­vice to de­tain any­one for seven days be­fore be­ing brought be­fore a court. He said there was a re­mote chance the pro­posal would be ap­proved, but the JPSA would “fight it tooth and nail” be­cause they are not ready to have the RTMC turn the coun­try into a fas­cist state.

He said: “No one is say­ing they shouldn’t deal with crashes linked to drunk and neg­li­gent driv­ing, or that they should not deal with drunk driv­ing at all.

“How­ever, you can­not adopt the men­tal­ity of not prov­ing some­one is guilty be­fore de­tain­ing them.

“If that’s the case, we should just shut down all the courts and save money. It’s un­con­sti­tu­tional!”

Le­gal ex­pert An­drew Bo­erner echoed Dem­bovsky’s sen­ti­ments, say­ing it was un­likely the pro­posal would be ac­cepted be­cause it vi­o­lated the constitution. A process was needed to deal with drunk and reck­less driv­ing, but chang­ing the sched­ules would not help.

“It is more of a so­cial is­sue. A more ef­fec­tive [so­lu­tion would be to] cre­ate a new court ded­i­cated to deal­ing with drunk and neg­li­gent driv­ing.

“This would help with the back­log and deal with the cases quicker and more ef­fi­ciently, [which would] de­ter peo­ple from drink­ing,” said Bo­erner.

Dem­bovsky said: “I re­spect [RTMC chief ex­ec­u­tive Adv Makhosini] Msibi but I don’t un­der­stand how an ad­vo­cate can mis­un­der­stand the jus­tice and crim­i­nal sys­tem and say things like this…

“This pro­posal is ab­surd at best and rep­re­sents lit­tle more than a crude at­tempt by the RTMC to abuse the well-es­tab­lished and legally sound bail process in our crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

“It should be treated with the contempt it de­serves.”

Rather cre­ate a new court for driv­ing of­fences.

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