Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
After 16 years, a learner’s licence fraud trial, believed to be one of the longest running cases in the country, finally ended in the Ramsgate Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
Rapal Singh, formerly of Southbound driver training, and Sharon Olsen, once an examiner at Durban’s Rossburgh testing grounds, were given suspended sentences and placed under correctional supervision by magistrate King Ndlovu.
The pair were convicted of multiple counts of fraud. Singh was convicted of 44 counts of fraud and Olsen of 33 counts in February this year.
As part of their sentences they were given a five-year jail sentence, wholly suspended for five years on condition that they were not convicted of similar offences.
They were also sentenced to three years of correctional supervision and were ordered to attend programmes assigned by the Correctional Services Department.
The court found that Singh had given crib notes to at least 129 learner’s licence applicants who used Southbound driving school. The examiners, including Olsen, then turned a blind eye when the applicants cheated during the exam. The owner of the driving school, Ramnarain Ramanand, was also charged, but died during the course of the trial.
The learner’s licence applicants and Hazel Jessop, a fellow Rossburgh examiner, all testified for the State.
Jessop was found to be a reliable witness and had testified she had been given a list of candidates from Southbound and she had given them only one specific test book, and then ignored their cheating. In return she had received money, given to her in envelopes by a cleaner, Vincent Hlongwane, who backed up her version.
The case, which began in July 1996, was beset by delays and obstacles as the original prosecutor and a defence advocate both became magistrates and the presiding magistrate, King Ndlovu, became a judge.
Handing down sentence yesterday, Ndlovu said there were several reasons why the case had taken so long to complete.
One of the obstacles he noted was his appointment as a judge, since new legislation had to be gazetted to allow him to preside over the trial.
He also said that the appointments of both a defence advocate and prosecutor as magistrates and that 100 witnesses had been called to testify added to the delays.
Ndlovu said the crimes had been “serious”, and in normal circumstances people convicted of similar fraud offences would have been sent to jail, but this case was unique because of the time delays.
He added that the delays had also adversely affected Singh and Olsen, who had had to put their lives on hold as they waited for the case to be completed.
He also commented that the Rossburgh testing station’s “good image” had been severely “dented” by the case and that there had been a syndicate operating with the driving school and traffic officials involved.