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Anton Crouse, a lawyer at the Soweto Justice Centre, said a complainant had every right to know why their matter had been withdrawn and should follow it up. He advised that the two women and anyone else with the same grievance do the following:
1. Write a letter to the senior prosecutor at the court where the case was heard.
2. Tabulate every detail of what happened in court, how many times it was postponed and why.
3. Get a copy of the court file and present this all to the prosecutor.
4. If there is no response after a week, then take all that information to the senior public prosecutor at Protea Magistrate’s Court to investigate the reasons why the case was withdrawn.
Robyn Leslie, a researcher working at the Wits Justice Project, said cases were normally withdrawn for the following reasons:
1. Not enough evidence to continue with prosecution.
2. The accuser withdraws.
3. The case gets taken off the roll because the magistrate deems it has no merit, or numerous problems with the case deem it unfit for the court roll, ie not enough evidence and repeat postponements with no progress in the matter.
“When a case is opened at a police station, a docket is created. This docket contains all the information relating to a case, ie witness statements, affidavits, medical reports. When the case is deemed ready, the investigating officer takes the docket to court where the prosecutors will decide what to do,” she said.
“State prosecutors all have prosecutorial discretion. They do need to refer to superiors to proceed with certain types of crimes, but it is usually up to them to decide if there is enough evidence.
“If a case is lagging and the production of evidence and proof of further investigation is non-existent, the magistrate has the right to remove the case from the roll until such time as the investigation picks up.”
Prosecutors have a couple of options:
l Decline to prosecute (if there is no prima facie evidence).
l Return the docket to the investigating officer for further work.
l Proceed with the prosecution. – Vuyo Mkize