Taxi driver case postponed

2012-02-21 16:54
Cape Town - The case of taxi driver Jacob Humphreys, convicted of killing 10 children in an accident, was postponed by the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.

Judge Robert Henney said the case was being postponed for closing arguments on Wednesday.

In the meantime, he would deliberate on arguments that had been given in aggravation and in mitigation of sentence.

On Tuesday, the State called provincial road safety programme director David Frost to the stand to present road accident statistics.

He told the court that deaths in minibus taxi accidents in the Western Cape had increased by more than 2% since 2005.

Taxis accounted for 10% of casualties in 2005 compared to 12.48% in 2010/2011.

Commuter safety secondary

He said the taxi industry had evolved to suit the needs of drivers and fleet owners rather than those of passengers. The safety of commuters was secondary to the amount of fares that could be collected by driving fast.

There had also been an increase in damage to provincial level crossing booms, with almost one incident for every working day of the year.

"This is clearly indicative of the disregard for the booms when they are down," he said.

"There is a vast disparity of the weight, mass and momentum of a train compared to a motor vehicle. It's like a fight between a heavyweight and a lightweight."

While taking children to school on August 25 2010, Humphreys overtook a row of cars at the Buttskop level crossing in Blackheath, ignored safety signals and drove over the tracks.

A train hit the taxi and 10 of the children were killed. Four others were seriously injured.

Safety not improved

Frost said safety had not been improved at Buttskop level crossing since the accident.

Henney said it was shocking that instances of damage to booms of this crossing had increased in the last year.

"What are you guys doing wrong? Why hasn't it stopped? What are you people doing to curb this?" he asked.

Frost testified that 64 instances of damage had been reported for 2011 compared with 43 in 2010.

Henney said it appeared that policing at the spot was not up to standard.

"Would this have occurred if there was effective policing? You can have all these nice plans in place but 64 incidents happened."

Frost said everything possible was being done to curb road accidents.

Transport service

Cross-examining Frost, defence lawyer Johann Engelbrecht asked him what he meant by the term minibus taxis in his pre-sentencing report.

Frost explained that he was referring to minibuses that transported people between destinations at a cost.

"You do realise that Jacob Humphreys did not operate a minibus taxi service," Engelbrecht said.

He said Humphreys offered a special service of transporting children to school, rather than strangers to various pick-up and drop-off points.

"A distinction must be made between minibus taxis and these service providers... [Some parts of your report] deal exclusively with minibus taxis and minibuses."

Engelbrecht criticised Frost's inclusion of crash examples at level crossings in Zaire and Taiwan.

"There might be totally different circumstances in Zaire than in South Africa," he said.

You don’t take chances

Henney said Engelbrecht was being unfair as Frost was just trying to make a point that level crossings were dangerous.

"The point is that when you approach a level crossing with passengers you don't take chances."

Humphreys listened attentively during proceedings.

He seemed in good spirits, having greeted his family as he entered the courtroom.

Family and friends of Humphreys' victims arrived in droves, filling up all the benches.

They wore shirts with pictures of their children as well as paraphernalia highlighting railway safety.

As Humphreys exited the court, they all pushed signs silently to his face, with the words: "10 lives, 10 life sentences, no parole".
Read more on:    jacob humphreys  |  cape town  |  transport  |  schoolbus tragedy

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

How much food do you need to concentrate?

We have been taught that we need three meals a day in order to make it through the day and while most of us indulge in more than our fair share there is a large portion of South Africans who are living off barely enough to sustain them.


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.