Concern after at least 161 sexual offence cases struck off the court roll since December
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Cape Town - Community activists and pressure groups has expressed concerns over 161 sexual offence cases allegedly struck off the court roll since December in the Western Cape.
This was recently revealed in the legislature during question time. The Western Cape Court Watching Brief (CWB) Unit has monitored and recorded 161 cases related to gender-based violence (GBV), femicide and sexual offences from December last year until August.
In the majority of those cases, it was indicated that DNA evidence was unavailable within a reasonable time frame, leading to delays in a speedy court trial for the alleged perpetrators of heinous crimes, including rape.
Anti-GBV (GBV) group Ilitha Labantu spokesperson Siyabulela Monakali said the DNA backlog has caused major challenges in court case proceedings for victims/survivors of GBV.
Monakali said as an organisation they would have hoped that the problem would have been resolved. He said it sets a dangerous precedent to strike off 161 sexual offences cases as a result of operational inadequacies.
He said those offenders would most likely re-offend, and the women and children who were violated by the offenders would certainly feel that the law had failed them.
“We cannot be singing the same tune year in, year out. Stronger measures need to be implemented so that our systems can function optimally,” he said.
Social Development chairperson in the legislature, Gillion Bosman, said it must be made clear 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,” said Bosman.
He said in that way, the CWB was a critical tool to aid the furtherance of justice, and one which only the Western Cape Government carries out.
When the Cape Argus asked the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on the allegations of the 161 cases, spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila directed queries to the police, stating that they were the ones dealing with DNA issues.
Police spokesperson Andrè Traut acknowledged the receipt of the media enquiry. He said he has sent the enquiry to the provincial head of detectives to make sure that the 161 cases referred to were indeed withdrawn because of the DNA or other factors.
Human rights activist Zintle Khobeni, chairperson of the organisation The Great People of SA, said they were disappointed that the numbers kept growing.
Khobeni said the Western Cape alone has just over 36 647 GBV-DNA evidence backlog which often means that perpetrators were getting away with those GBV crimes, and were coming back to the already vulnerable communities to commit more of those crimes.
Advocacy group Action Society spokesperson Ian Cameron said the prosecution of offenders that commit those horrific crimes could never be successful and serve as a warning for possible future offenders when the DNA backlog continues.
Cameron said many cases were being scrapped from court rolls because of the backlog and reports not being available.
“The state’s inability and lack of resolve to sort out this issue is making them complicit.