Magistrate Blasts Police Over Spot Fines

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A BULAWAYO magistrate has criticised the police for insisting on spot fines and burdening the courts with “trivial” matters, saying their powers were limited by law.

Magistrate Tinashe Tashaya said this as he warned, cautioned and discharged former Lupane West MP Njabuliso Mguni (MDC-T), who had been dragged to court by police on charges of driving a car with a missing rear number plate lamp, white front reflectors and a third front number plate.

Mguni, through his lawyer, Lizwe Jamela, of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), was convicted on his own plea of guilty to charges of violating sections of the Road Traffic Act and the Vehicle Registration and Licensing Act.

Tashaya ruled that although Mguni pleaded guilty to the charges, police had no right to infringe on his rights by insisting on a spot fine, considering that he had provided them with traceable particulars.

He said the charges against Mguni were an unnecessary burden to the courts as the offences carried a penalty of a $20 fine.

“In assessing the most appropriate sentence, I have noted, as correctly submitted by the defence counsel, that all the offences that Mguni committed carry a penalty of a fine of $20.

“Police are empowered to levy such fines as this reduces the unnecessary burden on the courts of having to deal with such petty offences. The trend in this jurisdiction is that such offences never attract a custodial sentence and neither do they lead to the confiscation of the offender’s vehicle by the State,” ruled Tashaya.

“In this case the offender wanted to exercise his legal right to pay a $50 fine at a later date of which police denied him his right,” said the magistrate.

Tashaya said the actions of the police were illegal, adding that Mguni suffered enough punishment by taking the matter to the High Court, engaging a lawyer to argue his case and having his car impounded by the police.

“Police should abide by the judiciary evidence that already exists. They cannot be the Legislature, Executive or Judiciary in their own course as their powers are limited by the law,” said Tashaya.

“The court cannot punish Mguni any further and accordingly he is warned, cautioned and discharged,” ruled the magistrate.

Last month Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Andrew Mutema also ruled that the police practice of impounding vehicles at roadblocks for failure to pay spot fines by motorists is unlawful.

Justice Mutema made the ruling as he ordered police to release Mguni’s car which they had seized for failing to pay a $50 spot fine.

Mguni, through his lawyer, challenged the seizure. The respondents in the case, the police Officer-in- Charge Traffic Section (Bulawayo District), the Officer Commanding Bulawayo Province and the Home Affairs Minister, did not oppose Mguni’s petition for an order declaring the police actions illegal.

Mguni’s brush with the police suggests the ZRP continues to violate a 2012 ruling by Justice Maphios Cheda of the Bulawayo High Court who held that police cannot insist on the payment of a spot fine by the roadside.

The judge said motorists should be issued with a ticket to be paid within a reasonable time.

“The said ticket should give the motorist a reasonable time within which to pay the fine in accordance with their regulations, unless the said offender elects to pay the fine on the spot,” said Justice Cheda.

He said an exception could be made where the motorist was a foreigner or had no “acceptable identification which will in turn make it difficult for him/her to be traced in the event of a default in paying the fine.”

In his affidavit, Mguni stated that he was stopped at a roadblock by a police officer while driving along 6th Avenue in Bulawayo’s Central Business District on March 16. The vehicle belongs to one Thembile Moyo. The police officer who stopped him advised him that his third number plate had been tampered with and for that reason he should pay a $20 fine.

“I was advised that I should pay an additional fine of $20 for an alleged missing rear number plate light and a further $10 for alleged missing front reflectors. This gave a total of $50 in all,” Mguni said. – See more at: http://www.bulawayo24.com/index-id-news-sc-national-byo-65811.html#sthash.k33F3jS7.dpuf