HomeNewsSpot fines, car seizures illegal — Judge

Spot fines, car seizures illegal — Judge

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HIGH Court judge Justice Francis Bere has wrapped the police for demanding spot fines and impounding vehicles at roadblocks, describing the practice as illegal as there was no law justifying such actions.

by Tatenda Chitagu/Charles Laiton

Speaking at the official opening of the Masvingo High Court Circuit yesterday, Justice Bere further said the illegal collection of spot fines had distracted police from their core business.

“There is no law which compels a motorist to deposit a fine with the police if he desires to challenge the alleged offence. But it looks like the motorists are being forced to pay these fines on our public roads irrespective of their attitude to the charges,” Justice Bere said.

“It occurs to me that any collection made by the police must be made in terms of Section 356 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (Chapter 9:07). That piece of legislation does not support the manner in which the spot fines are being collected and handled by the police.

“The section does not give police officers the power to force a motorist to pay a fine on the spot if he does not wish to do so or if he does not have the money on his person.”

Justice Bere added: “I am concerned that as a nation and in our desperate effort to give it (Zimbabwe Republic Police) lieu in the collection and retention of that revenue for its use, we may have severely fractured the execution of its core business.”

The High Court judge said in some instances, police used unorthodox means to force motorists to pay the fines, including threatening them with detention and impounding their motor vehicles when they refused to comply with the illegal orders.

“Any attempt to refuse to pay is met by threats to have the vehicle impounded by the police. Second, and more importantly, the section compels the police to forthwith transmit all the documentation to do with the payment of spot fines to the court for confirmation by a magistrate. All these provisions of the law are being flouted with everyone watching helplessly while this illegality continues,” Justice Bere said.

He also blasted the alleged extortion by the police in demanding “passage fees” from kombi drivers every day.

“Quite often, one hears of more illegal collections being made by the police. There is talk of well-co-ordinated collections of ‘security fees’ on our public roads, particularly from commuter omnibus drivers, which fees are meant to give commuter omnibuses free and
unhindered passage at police roadblocks. If this is true, then the department is surely cursed. How can we, as a nation, continue to condone such malpractices which create a breathing ground for corrupt tendencies?” Justice Bere queried.

“We talk of determination for the need to rid this country of corruption. How can we achieve this when we allow our police officers to conduct themselves in such a corrupt manner? My view is that all these issues must seriously be looked at and corrective action taken without further delay.”

He said although the Home Affairs ministry was financially hamstrung, the police were not justified to demand spot fines.

“I fully understand the predicament the Home Affairs ministry finds itself in. But, it occurs to me that currently there is no legal framework justifying the manner in which these collections are being done. There may be no problems with the police operating as an extension of Treasury, but if that is what is desired, then the legal framework must be put in place to support such kind of a development,” the High Court judge added.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police as a stakeholder in the justice delivery system has earned an international brand and that brand must be jealously protected by all fair-minded persons.”

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