New rules say petty offenders must be released on warning until after lockdown

Whether walking your dog or jogging during the national lockdown is a “petty offence” is up to judicial officers to decide.

Justice and correctional services minister Ronald Lamola has released regulations which state that an accused person arrested for a petty offence must be released and warned to appear at a future date. Image: MDUDUZI NDZINGI

This after new regulations on preventing the spread of Covid-19 in courts were published this week.

Justice ministry spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said the question of whether an offence was “petty” was determined by judicial officers upon adjudication.

The regulations‚ published in the Government Gazette dated March 30‚ state that all criminal trials enrolled during the lockdown‚ which is due to end on April 16‚ must be postponed to dates after the lockdown.

The regulations also state that an accused person arrested for a “petty offence” must be released and warned to appear in court at a future date.

Regulations also state that no awaiting-trial detainees held in correctional centres and police holding cells may be brought to any court or court precinct‚ unless for a first appearance or bail appearance.

Regulations state that police officials and prosecutors must‚ where necessary‚ release an accused on warning in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act.

As part of the government’s measures to curb the spread of Covid-19‚ essential justice services will be available at courts only between 10am and 1pm daily during the lockdown‚ the department said.

It said people whose matters were on the court rolls and not urgent should therefore‚ for purposes of the lockdown‚ stay home and not attend to the courthouses until after the lockdown.

“The courts will also ensure that they are advised of the new dates to which their matters were postponed‚” the justice department said.

By: Ernest Mabuza

Source: TMG Digital.

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