Charges against driver in horror Field’s Hill crash downgraded from murder to culpable homicide

2014-02-26 00:00

FIELD’S Hill truck driver Sanele May’s lawyers yesterday said they had been vindicated after the state downgraded his charges from murder to culpable homicide.

May’s case was heard at the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court via video link from Westville prison yesterday.

May was facing murder charges after his 18-wheeler truck ploughed into several vehicles, killing 24 people at the intersection of Field’s Hill and Richmond Road last year.

Speaking outside the court, May’s lawyers, Professor Mdletshe and advocate Khaya Thango, told the media that they were advised by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions that May’s charges have been downgraded from murder to culpable homicide.

It would probably only happen formally once the indictment was served.

The case against May was adjourned to March 28 to allow for the indictment to be served and for police to investigate new information related to the bail application.

Thango told journalists outside the court that they felt vindicated and there would now be less pressure on May.

“We’ve said that it was not correct to charge Sanele with murder,” he added.

University of KwaZulu-Natal professor of Constitutional Law, Karthy Govender, said the case of Jacob Humphries, the Western Cape taxi driver who crashed his taxi into a passing train at a level crossing at Blackheath near Cape Town, killing 10 school children in 2010, could have had an influence on the state’s sudden U-turn.

Humphries was initially found guilty of murder, but the Supreme Court of Appeal converted the 10 murder charges against him to 10 charges of culpable homicide and he got a lighter sentence.

Govender said the nature of the crime, interest to society and personal circumstances are some of the factors that will be considered when May finally goes on trial.

Govender said May had to explain what happened on the day of the incident and he said his conviction may also have implications for May’s employer, Sagekal Logistics.

Mthoko Dlamini, whose two brothers, Sbonelo (30) and Simon (24), and a cousin, Bonginkosi Zungu (40), died in the crash, said he would like to see May face murder charges.

“People died. I’m still shocked that he’s now apparently going to be charged with culpable homicide,” he told The Witness.

“The image of my brothers lying on the road that night still cuts deep,” he added.

KwaZulu-Natal Transport spokesperson Kwanele Ncalane said they were disappointed at the change in charges.

“We will continue to monitor this case. At the end of the day, we want justice to be served,” Ncalane said.

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