From the news desk

ISS consultant warns urgent action is needed to fight brazen criminals attacking officers of the court

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South Africa needs to adopt stronger measures to fight emboldened and brazen criminals, similar to the Italian government in its fight against the Sicilian Mafia many years ago when the Italian criminal justice system was compromised. The latest attack on officers of the court and the criminal justice system could embolden more criminals, according to a consultant for the Institute of Security Studies, Dr Johan Burger. His comments come in the wake of an apparent hit on advocate Vernon Jantjies who was shot dead at a petrol station in Mitchells Plain this past weekend. Jantjies’ murder follows on the heels of the murder of well-known Cape Town advocate Pete Mihalik as well as attorney Noorudien Hassan.

Hassan was shot in his car outside his home in Lansdowne on November 7 2016 and News 24 reports that he was linked to some of the Western Cape’s most high-profile gang cases. Mihalik, who reportedly worked closely with Hassan, was also murdered in a shooting while dropping off his children at Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard School on October 30 2018.

Dr Burger has warned that as a result of the failure to prevent attacks of any nature on judicial officers, as well as the failure to convict those responsible, these officers may become reluctant to hand down strong convictions or sentences where fitting if they convict dangerous criminals at all. He also worries that attacks of this nature may increase and further intimidate officers of the court.

In his opinion, the South African crime intelligence network seems weak and this explains the failure to prevent attacks on advocates, attorneys, judges and magistrates.

“It’s something that I think most people will be concerned about…attacks on lawyers, magistrates, judges and attorneys have been relatively unknown in South Africa until about two or three years ago…

In the last three years there have been these attacks on prominent lawyers and advocates and it raises concerns that cannot be disaggregated from the high level of violent crime we are experiencing in South Africa. We’ve seen a huge increase since 2012 where murders increased by something like 30 percent and aggravated robberies by something like 40 percent. Increasingly, we see criminals are prepared to become involved in gun battles with police…so what this tells us is that criminals, especially those involved in organised groups, syndicates and other gangs, are increasingly prepared to attack the police and officers of the court,” said Dr Burger.

“There will be an element of concern and fear among these officials…they will look at these attacks and think they are not above these kinds of attacks and could also be targeted by criminals who may be emboldened.”

Dr Burger has called for the infiltration of these groups with the efficient and strategic collection of criminal intelligence so that the criminal justice system can avoid attacks and take the necessary precautionary measures.

“This is something the whole criminal justice system should deal with as a collective…If they get a sense that they are able to target these officers of the court and are able to get away with it, it will embolden them and they will become increasingly brazen in terms of carrying out these attacks.”

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