Investigation into W Cape police handling of GBV case complaints show 'concerning inefficiencies' - MEC

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  • A systematic investigation into the police's handling of gender-based violence cases following complaints, show "some concerning inefficiencies", says MEC Albert Fritz.
  • A sample of complaints against the FCS Unit was used to identify some of its weaknesses as part of a probe by the Western Cape Police Ombudsman.
  • Provincial police say officers are "sensitised regularly on the scourge of gender-based violence and its manifestations".

A systematic investigation into the police's handling of gender-based violence cases found that 80% of victims who lodged complaints against the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit are not interviewed in private while 60% were not afforded an opportunity to offer information during the investigation or trial.

These are some of the statistics revealed as part of a formal investigation by the Office of the Western Cape Police Ombudsman which was requested by Western Cape community safety MEC Albert Fritz, who said the update on the probe revealed "some concerning inefficiencies that will need to be addressed" by the police to tackle the scourge in the province.

Fritz said as part of the Ombudsman's investigation, a sample of complaints against the FCS Unit was used to ideFntify some of its weaknesses.

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In addition to most not giving their statements in private or being given the opportunity to offer information during the investigation or trial, a further 80% of victims were not informed of their rights to protection from threat of harassment or intimidation; 60% of victims were not informed of available support services in their community; and none were informed on how to apply for monetary compensation where they had suffered damages or financial loss, Fritz said.

So far, this initial update provided to me confirms what we know in ever greater detail. We know that victims of gender-based violence are not receiving the appropriate service and treatment at SAPS stations.

"SAPS is keen to improve the service: that is why they have established the FCS, and the FCS has already done significant work. But more needs to still be done, and the update from the Ombudsman gives us a closer glimpse into exactly what that means," he said.

Fritz said the ombudsman's investigation found that while the police had adopted a victim empowerment programme to meet structural requirements, the implementation of it had been slow, resources to sustain it was lacking and there was a need to establish or improve relationships between the programme and non-governmental organisations.

Western Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa said police officers were "sensitised regularly on the scourge of gender-based violence and its manifestations" as the issue remained a priority.

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"The police officials are also made aware of the expected response (minimum service standards) from the SAPS in relation to GBV cases," she said.

Specialist detectives attached to the FCS units in the province investigate cases and owing to its nature, "most cases take some time to reach conclusion".

"Every effort is made to improve on the victim empowerment programme available at all police stations within the province. The service is made available to victims of crime," Potelwa said. 

Effectively dealing with the scourge of GBV requires an integrated approach. Collaborations with other parties in all spheres of government as well as the private sector, have proven quite instrumental in bringing perpetrators to book and providing much-needed awareness through activism.

She said concerns or complaints about substandard service offered at police stations or any other service points were "best channelled to police management for prompt intervention".

Meanwhile, Fritz said his department would raise the issue with newly appointed Police Ombudsman Oswald Reddy in its first engagement as the probe preceded his term of office.

"The purpose of that discussion will be to see the direction into which we will further the investigation."

He said he would also engage the provincial police commissioner for practical ways to overcome the identified challenges.

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