ACDP welcomes govt’s commitment to amend legislation on Covid Lockdown fines

ACDP welcomes govt’s commitment to amend legislation on Covid Lockdown fines

* Admission of guilt fines important mechanism – yet courts already overburdened and trivial offences should not incur criminal records
* will assist more than 300 000 normally law-abiding citizens arrested during Lockdown
* ACDP consistently pressured for an amendment to law in this regard

Statement by Steve Swart .MP

The ACDP welcomes the commitment of the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services to amend legislation dealing with admission of guilt fines and criminal records.

This will assist the more than 300 000 normally law-abiding citizens who were arrested during one of the world’s longest and harshest lockdowns – mostly on trivial offences.

“The ACDP welcomes the commitment given by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Affairs, Mr Ronald Lamola, in response to our recent oral question in Parliament, to amend legislation dealing with the payment of admission of guilt fines and criminal records.

We were concerned about the more than 300 000 normally law-abiding citizens who were arrested during one of the world’s longest and harshest lockdown periods – mostly on trivial offences. Those that opted to pay admission of guilt fines following such arrests will incur criminal records, which will have severe implications, particularly for those seeking employment.

In addition, our police, prosecutors, and courts are already over-burdened with serious cases of murder, rape, robbery and corruption.

The payment of admission of guilt fines is an important mechanism of the criminal justice system as it affords an opportunity to admit guilt for less serious offences and relieves the burden on the overloaded criminal justice system. However, we believe that such payments should not attract criminal records where minor offences have been committed.

We consistently raised our concerns in this regard in the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee, and thus welcome the Minister’s reply dealing with proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act. This will assist those who were arrested and opted to pay admission of guilt fines for minor offences committed during the lockdown period.

According to the Minister, “(T)he draft legislative proposal, amongst others, will provide for:
a) The payment of fines that do not give rise to a previous conviction;
b) The payment of admission of guilt fines that do give rise to previous convictions;
c) The expungement of certain criminal records that result from admission of guilt fines, as contemplated in paragraph (b);
d) The expungement of criminal records that result from admission of guilt fines that have been paid in respect of trivial offences pre the enactment of the proposed law;
e) A process to identify and prescribe the offences, subject to Parliamentary approval, that will be subject to the payment of fines that do not give rise to a previous conviction; and
f) A bettered review process in respect of the payment of admission of guilt fines that do give rise to previous convictions.”

The ACDP notes that it is envisaged that the legislative proposal will be out for the public consultation process in October 2020. We look forward to the speedy processing of the Bill through Cabinet and then through Parliament.”