Harsher punishment for buying stolen goods

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pretoria - Harsher sentences lie ahead for not only those who steal, but those who buy stolen goods when the Second-Hand Goods Act comes into effect, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has warned.

"Any person who buys a stolen [item] is as guilty as the person who stole the goods; and harsher sentences will apply to both the buyer and the thief. From the 1st April 2012, the Second-Hand Goods Act, 2009 (Act No 6 of 2009) will come into effect thus enable police to implement such conditions," he said.

In a written Parliamentary Reply on Wednesday, the minister said he had instructed SAPS management to ensure that the Second-Hand Goods Act was implemented by April this year.

The Act seeks to regulate second-hand goods dealers and recyclers and will be an important tool in the effort to clamp down on stolen goods.

As part of the first phase of implementation, certain sections of the Second-Hand Goods Act have been put into operation as from 13 December 2011 and 16 January 2012.

These sections provide for, among others, accreditation of Second-Hand Goods Dealers' Associations and also regulate suspicious transactions as well as the possession, acquisition and disposal of controlled metal cable, for example, copper.

A national structure has also been established to deal with the control of second-hand goods.

The Police Ministry is implementing the Act in phases and is now on the second phase.

"This is currently done based on the promulgation of the outstanding Regulation for Dealers and Recyclers, which is to be finalized by April 2012. The training of designated Second-Hand Goods police officers will be conducted after the promulgation of the above mentioned regulations," the Police Ministry said.

Police stations will be mobilised and capacitated to start implementing the Act as part of the second phase of implementation.

"The Act will replace the out-dated Second-Hand Goods Act of 1955 (Act No 23 of 1955) and covers a wide range of activities from the traditional corner pawn shop to large metal recyclers. It specifically provides for compliance monitoring to be done by industry associations and also addresses cable theft and the effect it has on infrastructure in South Africa," Mthethwa said.

The Act also requires all dealers in second-hand goods to report all suspicious transactions where the seller attempts to provide false particulars or where the goods are suspected to be stolen or tampered with.

Second-hand goods dealers and pawnbrokers will not only have to take reasonable steps to ensure that they do not buy stolen goods or goods that have been tampered with, but will also have to be careful about who they buy goods from.

If a dealer is found guilty, a court may impose a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

On the issue of stolen cables, such as copper cables, the minister pointed out that any one dealing in, or in possession of non-ferrous (controlled metal) cable with a burnt cover, is committing an offence unless a reasonable explanation for that burnt cover can be given to police.

"This offence too gives a court the power to sentence copper thieves and unscrupulous scrap dealers to imprisonment for a period of 10 years. We therefore believe this legislation will assist in combating both copper and property crimes," Mthethwa added.

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