Crucial DNA evidence leads to 161 GBV being struck off the roll in the W Cape

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Albert Fritz. (Photo: Peter Abrahams)
Albert Fritz. (Photo: Peter Abrahams)
  • Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz has revealed the Western Cape Court Watching Brief (CWB) Unit monitored and recorded 161 cases related to gender-based violence, femicide and sexual offences from December 2020 to August 2021. 
  • Fritz said a number of factors had contributed to cases being struck off the roll or delayed. 
  • In the majority of cases, the DNA evidence was not available within a reasonable time which caused delays.

The failure of the South African Police Service to process critical DNA evidence has resulted in 161 cases related to violence against women and children being struck off the court roll between December 2020 and August this year.

These numbers came to light after a question posed by the provincial standing committee chairperson for social development Gillion Bosman to Community safety MEC Albert Fritz regarding gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide and sexual offences cases that had been struck off the roll and delayed since December last year.

The exchange further revealed that the DNA evidence was unavailable within a reasonable timeframe, leading to delays in the court process.

Gillion Bosman.

Fritz said in his response to Bosman: "The CWB (Western Cape Court Watching Brief Unit does not have disaggregated information from the charge sheet as the charge sheet does not separate a GBV case from a femicide case as recorded. The separation can only be determined by the docket once the National Prosecuting Authority  made an informed decision."

Fritz further said there was a number of issues that affected the reasons why cases were struck off the roll. 

"The complainant will file a withdrawal statement with the investigating officer indicating the reasons why she or he does not want to proceed with the criminal case any further. The complainant becomes untraceable for the investigating officer to get hold of for consultation or to testify against the accused," he said.

READ MORE | SAPS' DNA backlog grows to almost 240 000 cases

He added most often young victims were unable to testify due to trauma or other related factors.

"In the majority of cases, the DNA evidence is not available within a reasonable time which causes delays to a speedy trial for an accused," Fritz added. 

Bosman said there were fears that the number of such cases might very well be higher than 161. 

"This is because the CWB monitors a sample of all court cases for the purpose of highlighting potential police inefficiencies. In this way, the CWB is a critical tool to aid the furtherance of justice, and one which only the Western Cape government carries out," he said. 

Bosman added he submitted a dossier to the president's National Council on Gender-Based Violence on behalf of residents on this crucial matter.

Last month, the provincial government revealed that 37 647 sexual offence cases were outstanding in the Western Cape due to the backlog of DNA specimens not processed at the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). 

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