Court overturns Humpreys’ 10 murder charges

2013-03-22 13:04

The Supreme Court of Appeal has overturned 10 murder charges against the Western Cape taxi driver who tried to beat a train across a level crossing.

In a judgment delivered today, the court replaced the murder convictions with culpable homicide convictions against 55-year-old Jacob Humphreys who had attempted to beat a train across a level crossing.

The ensuing crash killed 10 of the children Humphreys was driving to school, while four of them survived.

Last year, the Western Cape High Court sentenced Humphreys to 20 years imprisonment on 10 murder charges and four charges of attempted murder.

But the Supreme Court of Appeal has reduced this sentence to eight years, after finding that the National Prosecuting Authority had failed to prove murder.

In a judgment penned by Judge Fritz Brand, he said the NPA had not proven the element of indirect intent (dolus eventualis) which was necessary for a murder conviction.

Indirect intent requires a person to foresee that their actions might cause the death of another and for that person to reconcile themselves with the consequence and carry on with their actions anyway.

The court accepted “that no person in their right mind can avoid recognition of the possibility that a collision between a motor vehicle and an oncoming train may have fatal consequences”.

But the court differed with the Western Cape High Court over whether Humphreys had reconciled himself with the consequences of his risky driving.

The court ruled that the question was whether “it was immaterial to him whether these consequences would flow from his actions”.

The court ruled that, had Humphreys foreseen the death of his passengers, he would inevitably had to have foreseen his own death.

“Put differently, the appellant must have been indifferent as to whether he would live or die.”

The court found there was no evidence that Humphreys had reconciled himself with his own death.

The court also said there was evidence that Humphreys had performed the same manoeuvre previously and that it was a mathematical possibility a collision with the train could be avoided.

The court did, however, rule that Humphreys’ actions “represented the most reprehensible degree of negligence”.

“It amounted to a blatant deviation from what could be expected from the reasonable driver and a flagrant disregard for the safety of others,” Brand wrote.

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