New Hawks bill raises eyebrows

2012-03-03 18:47

The man who waged war for the political independence of the Hawks says he wants to “dress in my clown suit and ask the police if they’re joking”.

Businessman Hugh Glenister said this in reaction to the new bill governing the elite crime-busting unit.

The bill is due to be tabled in Parliament’s portfolio committee of police on Wednesday.

Last year, Glenister won a narrow victory in the Constitutional Court when it decided by a majority of only one judge that the unit was “insufficiently insulated from political influence in its structure and functioning”.

The court delayed the unconstitutionality finding in order to allow Parliament to fix the problems with the old bill.

Police are confident the new bill will pass constitutional scrutiny – but Paul Hoffman SC, Glenister’s lawyer, called it a “threadbare attempt to comply with the Constitutional Court’s judgment”.

The court said last year it was particularly concerned by the extent to which a ministerial committee had “hands-on” control and oversight over the unit, as well as the cases and crimes that would be referred to the unit.

The committee consisted of the ministers of justice, finance, home affairs, intelligence and police.

Some features of the new bill include:

» Policy guidelines on cases and crimes for the Hawks to investigate are now the sole responsibility of the minister of police with the “concurrence of Parliament”;

» The ministerial committee’s direct oversight of the unit has been removed;

» The minister of police still appoints the head of the Hawks. However, he now does so for a non-renewable term of seven years and there is a new deadline for reporting the appointment to Parliament; and

» A new provision also allows the minister to suspend the head of the directorate if “he or she is no longer a fit and proper person to hold the office”.

Parliament has until September to debate the bill and adopt the legislation.

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