A criminal law expert says that the police cannot be solely blamed for the low crime conviction rate in Mitchell’s Plain. Premier Helen Zille this week revealed that conviction rate for gang-related crimes in the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court is now just 0.7%. This information was released by the Western Cape Government in a recent parliamentary reply by Safety MEC Dan Plato. Though prosecution mandates rests with national government, Zille said the Western Cape is making use of an oversight mandate in an attempt to monitor policing at the level of prosecution.
According to criminal lawyer Reaz Khan, the conviction rate is not only as a result of police inefficiency, but instead extends to all role players in the process of conviction, including the prosecutors and defense attorneys.
“It could be the result of ineffective investigation, witnesses who do not arrive to court, and the liaison offices that ensure that the dockets are in court, since many cases are dropped because dockets are lost,” Khan said.
In response to the alarming statistics, Zille said that communities within the province continue to struggle against gang violence, and further noted that 65 per cent of community members have no confidence in the criminal justice system.
“The convictions crisis is a sign of a dysfunctional criminal justice system. We are calling on the South African Police Service (SAPS), the National Prosecuting Authority and the Justice Department to bring an end to this national disgrace,” Zille said.
But on Wednesday, Western Cape Head of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Hishaam Mohamed said the Premier’s information was inaccurate. He said the department does not know what the Premier is referring to, because the criminal justice system does not hold such a category as crime conviction rate.
SAPS stats indicate that gang related crimes account for almost a third of all crimes within the Western Cape, which Khan says is directly impacted by an insufficient number of police officers patrolling areas.
“Gangsters know that that there is no police presence and take advantage, so we need more man power to protect the public from these gangsters.”
Khan further noted that while effective legislation exists, competent police investigations is required to secure convictions against suspects.
“They should assess successful convictions and understand what the role players in those cases did correctly, and learn from that,” he continued. VOC