‘Criminals walking free after police failures’

Xolani Koyana

POLICE tardiness in investigating serious crimes such as rape and murder, and their failure to take dockets to court had resulted in many criminals walking free, a State prosecutor told the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry yesterday.

Documents before the commission, containing a sample of cases in October 2012 and April 2013, show that 258 cases before the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court were withdrawn.

The documents do not contain reasons for this.

Khayelitsha court senior prosecutor Rochelle Harmse said the figures correlated with the level of efficiency of investigating officers. Harmse has held the position since 2011. She said most of the cases had been struck off the roll or withdrawn by the State because dockets had not been taken to court on more than five occasions and there were incomplete investigations.

There were also instances where investigating officers were not in court on more than one occasion to testify, resulting in cases being withdrawn or thrown out.

In some cases statements of witnesses and arresting officers were not included in the docket taken to court.

Harmse said the problems were raised with station commanders. “… You would for a day or two see an improvement. Thereafter the dockets are not coming,” Harmse said.

“There cannot be effective administration of justice if dockets are not in court.”

Echoing Dr Genine Josias, a medical co-ordinator at Khayelitsha’s Thuthuzela Care Centre who testified last week, Harmse said there were countless challenges dealing with the police’s Khayelitsha Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences unit.

Harmse, who used to work at the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court, told the commission she found working with police in Khayelitsha more frustrating than in her previous post.

She believed the problems were systemic.

Advocate Norman Arendse SC, acting for the police, put it to Harmse that it was unfair to pin all the withdrawals solely on the police. He said there were other factors to consider, like witnesses not going to court to testify.

The inquiry continues today.

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