Durban - Drunk driving cases closed even before blood analysis reports were filed, reports that went missing and incorrect statements were some of the damning findings made by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate in a probe into corruption in drunk driving cases in Durban.
Ipid spokesman Moses Dlamini said on Wednesday the directorate was preparing a memorandum to send to the National Prosecuting Authority to recommend police officers be charged with corruption.
The directorate launched an investigation into 200 drunk driving cases at the Durban Central police station in 2014 after alarms were raised about police handling the cases. Dlamini said many problems were encountered in the investigation, including that blood analysis reports requested from Forensic Science Laboratory went missing.
“A further application was made and the reports were obtained after numerous visits to the laboratory.”
He said there were cases where dockets were closed even though the blood alcohol reports were outstanding and some samples couldn’t be analysed as the samples were not obtained correctly.
He added that other cases were withdrawn by the senior public prosecutor at court because statements were not written up correctly, dates differed and information was contradictory.
Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said drunk driving cases could be easily affected by problems with the blood alcohol samples. This was because samples could be affected if they were not stored correctly or if incorrect information was recorded when the sample was taken.
Not taken seriously
A source said there was a high withdrawal limit of drunk driving cases, particularly in Durban courts, but most of the withdrawals were provisional - where the case could be placed back on the court roll once the blood alcohol results were received.
The source said hundreds of people were arrested in roadblocks but only a few laboratories were available to analyse blood alcohol samples, so there could be a delay of several months before reports were ready for the docket.
A study published in the South African Crime Quarterly in September found there could be changes to the concentration of alcohol in the samples if there were lengthy delays in the analysis. This could make the values inaccurate or unreliable.
Caro Smit of the Pietermaritzburg-based organisation South Africans against Drunk Driving said on Wednesday the crime was not taken seriously by the police.
She said while she did not have statistics on police officers tampering with samples, police officers could “help out” people because they felt sympathy for them.
Smit said the organisation wanted the State to stop relying on blood samples because this was open to abuse.
“The blood tests are a huge issue, therefore the police should be using evidential breathalysers which are less likely to be tampered because they can issue on-the-spot printouts of the readings.”