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DA: Statement by Dianne Kohler Barnard, Democratic Allaince shadow minister of police, on the poor investigation of police dockets (12/10/2010)

12th October 2010

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The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be submitting questions to interrogate revelations by the Justice Department that the number of dockets that have been sent back by lower courts for further investigation has increased by 74%. This indicates that the requisite investigations are not being carried out before a docket is referred to court. The Justice Department has stated that a total of 268 372 dockets were referred for further investigation in the lower courts, which "clearly indicates the lack of proper investigation when dockets are referred to court". The DA will be submitting proposals to the Police Minister, which we believe would increase the investigative ability of the SAPS and thereby increase crime conviction rates.

Although the number of dockets in which prosecutions were declined reduced by 24%, this should be read in conjunction with the success of the cases and the conviction rates. The recent release of crime statistics shows that although many crime category conviction rates have improved somewhat year on year, they, however, remain a major cause for concern. For example, the conviction rate for murder is just 13.6%. 

Of the 16 834 reported murders in 2009/2010, 10 950 were referred to court, with 5 064 convictions. This statistic means that less than 2 out of every 10 murders actually see someone going to jail for the crime. The conviction rate for sexual offences (which includes rape) is at 14.6%. The overall conviction rate in 2009/2010 for violent crimes is 23.8%.

Conviction rates are important because not only do they show the extent to which justice is being served, but also because the likelihood of getting caught and punished for a crime is a deterring factor in whether or not a person will commit a crime. Currently there is very little likelihood that a murderer or rapist will ever be convicted of his or her crime. The odds are still massively in favour of the criminals.

I will be writing to the Minister of Police today with proposals from the DA's criminal justice policy, which we believe will go a long way towards increasing the crime conviction rates, as well as reducing the number of dockets that need to be referred for further investigation from the courts. Included in the proposal are the following:

• Improved training: it is essential that scene of crime officers are properly trained and adequately resourced to ensure that evidence is properly and thoroughly collected, so that it can be properly processed. 
• Fixing the crisis at the Forensic Science Laboratories: successful prosecutions depend on being able to process crime scene evidence 
• Increasing the number of detectives: detectives are very often over-worked and under-trained. We believe that around 52 000 detectives are needed in order to improve the number and quality of criminal investigations, which would lead to increased conviction rates. 
• Reinstating specialized units: research shows that specific strategies and dedicated units for specialized forms of crime, yield better results in detection of these kinds of crime.

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