Cape Town wants more magistrates to take on traffic offenders

2015-10-08 19:39
(Nielen de Klerk, News24)

(Nielen de Klerk, News24)

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Cape Town - The City of Cape Town is lobbying for additional magistrates among other measures to assist in its bid to crack down on traffic offenders.

"As things stand, tens of thousands of offenders are getting away because the courts simply cannot keep up with the high number of traffic cases," mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said in a statement.

Currently 11 municipal traffic courts across the city deal with traffic cases as well as by-law transgressions.

"Magistrates have to deal with the daily court roll as well as arrests, warrant enquiries and Section 35 cases," he said.

"Our staff are battling to execute warrants as a result of the overwhelming number of documents that have to be served."

In the past 16 months, 312 072 warrants were produced, with an average of 5 000 executed each month.

"That is an execution rate of 26%. This does not include warrants finalised through voluntary payments, with an execution rate of 42%," Smith said.

"We are working hard to remedy the situation. To date, we have already successfully negotiated with the justice department for additional resources for these courts. Currently, the city is paying for three additional magistrates and we are negotiating for more."

The increase in traffic fine income from just under R100m in 2012/13 to more than R200m in 2014/15 was in part due to the fact that more warrants were being signed courtesy of the additional magistrates, he continued.

Courts were also able to hear more cases.

"We have also employed a former traffic court magistrate to work on improving the quality of the notices we draw up and to reduce officer errors, which lead to cases being struck off the court roll.

"In addition, the appointment of 90 new traffic officers in this financial year will allow the deployment of some of these staff to bolster the capacity of Operation Reclaim to execute warrants. We are also finalising an agreement with the sheriffs of the court to assist with the execution of warrants."

Other potential measures being considered to ease the court backlog include making more court days available and introducing night courts.

Smith said the city was, however, hamstrung by Section 35 of the National Road Traffic Act which dictates that anyone caught driving in excess of 30 km/h over the speed limit in a 60 km/h or 120 km/h speed zone must be arrested and plead their case before a magistrate, with the possibility of having their licence suspended.

"The same does not apply to a motorist who commits the same offence in any other speed zone, which effectively means many culprits get away.

"The result: a case backlog of 110 000 at Cape Town's municipal courts, because each court is only allowed to deal with 10 Section 35 cases at a time and each case involves an enquiry into the suspension of the offender’s licence."

The city hopes to see the clause amended to apply to speeds in excess of 50 km/h over the speed limit irrespective of the speed zone.

"That way we will have more success in punishing the real speedsters and alleviate the pressure on the courts," he said.

Read more on:    cape town

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