Gun compensation appeal dismissed

2012-12-04 14:30


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Bloemfontein - Firearm owners who voluntary surrendered their firearms to police for destruction will not be compensated by the State, the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has ruled.

It dismissed an appeal on Friday by two non-profit voluntary associations, the Justice Alliance of South Africa and the False Bay Gun Club, against a Western Cape High Court judgment.

The high court had held that the minister did not overstep his legal capacity in published guidelines which provided that gun owners who voluntarily surrendered their firearms, which were not retained by the State, were not entitled to compensation.

On Tuesday, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa welcomed the judgment.

Voluntary surrender

About 180 000 firearms were voluntarily surrendered to the police between January 2005 and March 2009, said ministerial spokesperson Zweli Mnisi.

The SCA also held that the associations' arguments could not be reconciled with a specific provision of the Firearms Control Act, particularly section 136.

It states that no compensation is payable when a firearm is surrendered and destroyed.

The court found the act provided for compensation only when a firearm was retained by the state for a specific reason.

Mnisi said most of the firearms surrendered to the police had been destroyed.

He said if the police had been ordered to pay compensation, it would have cost the state up to R170m.

"This would have resulted in a significant drain on the policing budget."

Police approach vindicated

Mnisi said the judgment had vindicated the police’s approach to firearm control.

He said tougher control on the ownership, possession and use of firearms had resulted in a marked reduction in gun-related crimes.

Mnisi said the court’s order that minor adjustments be made to the guidelines had been noted.

"The minister will attend to these amendments in due course."

He said the ministry was also putting systems in place to ensure firearms in the hands of police and security officers were properly monitored to prevent loss and abuse.

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