SADD: SA courts soft on drunk drivers

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Pretoria - An anti-drunk driving association says the lenient sentence inposed on the son of a National Prosecuting Authority chief was no coincidence.

Gunter Geyer, who also goes by the name of Gunter van Rensburg, is the son of NPA chief executive Karen van Rensburg.

In 2011, Geyer knocked down a pair of early-morning joggers while driving while intoxicated, instantly killing family man Louis Nel.

Geyer pleaded guilty to drunk driving and culpable homicide charges more than a year ago, but was sentenced only last week in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court - to just two years’ correctional supervision.

He will remain under house arrest and will have to serve 384 hours’ community service, with a fine of R10 000.

NO DETERRENT

But Caro Smit, head of South Africans Against Drunk Driving, has described the sentence as a joke, and said it showed that the courts did not recognise the severity of driving under the influence of alcohol.

“His fine of R10 000 (instead of the allowed R120 000) and the fact that he was not jailed sends the message that drunk driving is not a serious crime, and will not be a deterrent to others,” Smit said.

She claimed Geyer’s ties to the NPA had influenced the court’s decision.

Smit said Nel’s death had resulted in years of heartache for his family, especially his wife René, who struggles financially.

NPA spokesman Nathi Mncube said that while he had informed Van Rensburg of the claims, the organisation would not comment on them.

“You will recall that we made a commitment to the minister of justice to refrain from dealing with any matters pertaining to NPA officials through the media. We continue to stand by that commitment,” Mncube said.

Legal expert and associate professor at the Wits Law Clinic, Stephen Tuson, said while some offenders found guilty of culpable homicide faced years behind bars, the court most likely took numerous factors into account before handing down Geyer’s judgment.

GUILTY PLEA

These included Geyer’s guilty plea, which most likely indicated remorse for the crime, as well as his admission that he had a drinking problem.

Tuson said that if Geyer was a first-time offender and was willing to tackle his drinking problem, the court would not define him as dangerous to society.

He added that two years’ correctional supervision was a year shy of the maximum sentence when it came to house arrest.

IN 2013 Nel’s daughter Paulet started a petition, calling for minimum jail time for drunk and reckless drivers, garnering thousands of signatures.

She wrote: “It’s time to take drunk driving and speeding seriously, and to impose proper consequences. I’m afraid that a slap on the wrist and a fine is just not adequate for such a serious matter.”

Smit pointed out that her organisation was dedicated to working with the victims of drunk drivers, and said they provided support to families affected. She advised anybody needing help to visit the SADD website for more information.

The Star


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