SA mulls expunging criminal records of lockdown offenders, but not for multiple offenders

Government is considering expunging the criminal records of people who have violated lockdown regulations, but will not do this immediately because it wants to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Image: Allan Swart/123RF

Government is considering expunging the criminal records of people who have violated lockdown regulations, but will not do this yet because it wants to enforce rules in place intended to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Tens of thousands of people have criminal records since the state of disaster was enacted almost a year ago.

Police minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson Lirandzu Themba said on Friday more than 342,000 people have been arrested for violations of lockdown regulations since the start of the lockdown in March last year. She said most of those arrested received fines while others were released on warning.

Paying the admission of guilt fine carries with it more than just a financial penalty. It means the person has a criminal record which might prevent them from gaining employment and obtaining visas to travel to other countries.

The alternative option under consideration is for the lockdown fines to be handled like speeding tickets, which do not carry criminal records.

Speaking to ENCA on Sunday, deputy justice minister John Jeffries said SA would like to see a process to expunge records for admission of guilt fines because of the detrimental effects on people.

“However, at this stage, in the middle of the second wave of infections, people must follow the regulations. It is for our own good.”

Jeffries said the records served a legitimate purpose.

He said the importance of criminal records for breaking the regulations was that the courts could see if a person has become a serial offender.

by Ernest Mabuza

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