2nd Global High Level Ministerial Road Safety Conference in Brasilia, in November 2015
SADD presented together with other Global Alliance members under the Justice and Post-Crash Response Pillar, which was looking at Victims’ rights.
We were asking for proper crash investigations, criminal prosecution, and civil compensation for victims’ including trauma counselling are.
Due to poor staff training and being overworked, our police do not fill charge sheets correctly, and they do not secure the scene of the crash. This can lead a person who has committed a dangerous offence, like reckless and negligent driving or driving over the legal limit, getting a lighter sentence, a "Not Guilty" verdict, or the case being dropped due to lack of evidence.
This contributes towards our very low +/- 7% conviction rate.
These are some of the reasons NOT GUILTY verdicts are given:
* Lack of evidence
* Lack of forms filled in correctly/Lack of documentation
* Poor Police work
* Inadequate training of investigators
* No, or bad post-crash investigation
* At crash scenes: No automatic testing for alcohol/drugs
* Lack of understanding of seriousness of road crimes, and the cost to individuals and the fiscus
* Political indifference
* Sympathy for drink drivers/reckless and negligent drivers
* Records missing
* Public Prosecution and Magistrates are often overworked with large caseloads. Many of them lack adequate knowledge about units of alcohol and what that comes to in blood or breath alcohol levels.
They have little knowledge about alcohol tolerance, (i.e. "practiced" or "drinking fit" alcohol dependent person can still drive - albeit dangerously) at a level that would make the ordinary man or woman either unconscious or dead! They also have little knowledge about the chances of crashes occurring at the different blood alcohol levels, etc.
Although there is lack of evidence to prove the driver as guilty in the courts, it does not take away the crime committed, neither does it make him/her innocent!
There is a huge problem of misplaced sympathy towards the person caught and often very little thought is given to the victims of this crime.
People (including Lawyers, Magistrates, SAPS and Traffic Officers) think about how bad the person who killed him/her must feel. They consider their right for a trial and to have access to the best lawyer in town.
There is a feeling of “Shame – it could have been me or my husband who had drunk that amount and crashed or killed someone because they were reckless, so I understand how he/she feels, and I feel sorry for him/her.”
In South Africa we often treat young people, or people with influence or money differently, or as “first time offenders" and send them on diversion programs, so that they do not get criminal records.
Research shows that first time offenders are seldom first time offenders! It is just the first time they have been caught!
With so few tests being done the chance of getting away with drink driving is very good.
These are some of the reasons why our crash and fatality and injury rates are so high, and our conviction rates are so low!