16-year trial winds down

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Two convicted fraudsters who have been on trial for almost 16 years will have to wait two more months for sentencing.

Rapal Singh, formerly of Southbound Driver Training School, and Sharon Olsen, once an examiner at Durban’s Rossburgh testing grounds in Durban, were convicted of fraud in February.

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.

An amendment to legislation was required to allow Judge Ndlovu to sit as a magistrate to finish the case.

In his judgment, Ndlovu 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.

Singh was convicted of 44 counts of fraud and Olsen of 33 counts.

The case was meant to be finalised on Thursday, but had to be postponed to June because of the lengthy testimony of a probation officer.

The officer, Makhosazana Mantantana, was rigorously cross-examined after she recommended that Singh be sentenced to serve one sixth of his sentence in prison and thereafter be placed under correctional supervision.

In a report compiled in March, Mantantana had recommended that Singh be given a wholly suspended sentence.

Mantantana said she had compiled her second report after interviewing Road Traffic Inspectorate official Douglas Ntombela, who had explained the impact of the crime on the Transport Department.

She said Ntombela told her that fraudulent learner’s licence holders posed a danger to other road users.

Singh’s advocate Piet Haasbroek, said the sentence recommended by Mantantana in her second report was inappropriate as Singh was rehabilitated.

The offences had been committed 16 years ago. Singh had been a good citizen, maintained a stable family life and had not committed any similar offences, said Haasbroek. - The Mercury

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