Swift justice for World Cup crime

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pretoria - Less than a week after courts dedicated to hearing World Cup related offences opened, they have already had to deal with four cases.

Speaking at the announcement of the dedicated courts in Randburg on Thursday, Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Menzi Simelane said one of the cases related to the theft of money from the Columbian soccer team's hotel room.

He could not go into detail about the case as it was proceeding.

A second case dealt with the theft of a laptop from a Peruvian national in Pretoria.

That case was finalised as there was no evidence linking the suspects to the theft.

A French national was also arrested in Durban for drunken driving. He was released on bail and the case against him will proceed in June, Simelane added.

The fourth case involved two Indian nationals, one of whom accused the other of stealing a camera.

Simelane said the complainant decided not to proceed with the criminal complaint because it was considered an internal matter and the suspect's company had sent him back to India.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe said government was aware that the World Cup would attract criminals and hooligans from South Africa and the participating nations, however the proper processes and systems have been put in place to deal with them.

He added that dedicated courts had been set up to avoid bottlenecks should there be cases involving foreign nationals during the World Cup.

"..we have pulled all stops to ensure that the judiciary puts its shoulder to the wheel to fast-track the prosecution of foreign nationals who, wittingly or unwittingly, may be caught up in criminal activities," the minister said.

The minister assured South Africans and visitors that if they adhered to the law they had nothing to fear but warned that stringent measures would be in place to ensure the safety of everyone who was in the country for the soccer spectacle.

"The full might of the law will be applied to anyone irrespective of country of origin, who may act or get involved in acts that may undermine our laws as well as the successful hosting of this very important FIFA World Cup," Radebe said.

Regional Court president Modibedi Djaje said 56 dedicated courts were set up across the country to ensure that normal courts were not disrupted during the World Cup.

"Foreigners will not be staying in the country forever. They need to leave and we want their cases to be finalised before they leave. If a witness needs to go back to London getting that witness back to testify during the case could become very costly," he explained.

CEO of the 2010 World Cup Local Organising Committee, Danny Jordaan encouraged people to celebrate the World Cup, saying it should be a party but one that was within the framework of the law.

FIFA also welcomed the establishment of the dedicated courts.

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said while the world football body never asked for the courts, he was grateful that the South African government had set them up.

Dedicated and skilled justice officials had been selected to man the 56 dedicated courts and this included 110 magistrates, 260 prosecutors from the National Prosecuting Authority, 110 legal aid attorneys from Legal Aid South Africa, 93 foreign language interpreters and 110 local language interpreters.

The courts started operated on 28 May and are open from 7.45am to 11pm seven days a week. They will remain open until two weeks after the final game is played.