|FORMER education minister and MDC Secretary for legal affairs, David Coltart, has come out in support of under fire High Court judge Francis Bere’s remarks on spot fines, saying the practice is “illegal and unconstitutional and must stop.”
Officially opening the 2015 legal year this week in Masvingo, Justice Bere took a swipe at the police for demanding spot fines from errant motorists.
“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.
“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,” Justice Bere was quoted in the media.
In response, the police dismissed Justice Bere’s Monday utterances insisting they will continue collecting spot fines.
But Coltart said the outburst from the police was not surprising as spot fines had become a source of revenue for the ZRP.
“I am not surprised by this remark because we all know that the number of road blocks and the rampant fining which takes place at them is a key source of revenue for the ZRP,” said Coltart.
“The Chief Superintendent is correct in saying that remarks at the opening of the High Court are not binding as a judgment would be. However the ZRP should not be so dismissive of the learned Judge’s remarks and a more temperate reply would have been more appropriate.”
The Bulawayo-based lawyer attacked the police for wanting to convict people instead of leaving that role to the courts.
“The ZRP are not there to convict people-they are there to identify crime/infractions of the law and then to bring those to the Courts to decide whether there is guilt or not. That right is entrenched in Section 69(1) of the Constitution which states “Every person accused of an offence has the right to a fair and public trial within a reasonable time before an independent and impartial court”,” said Coltart.
He urged government to respect the Constitution and suspend the collection of spot fines.
“This practice is illegal and unconstitutional and must stop. If the present government is even vaguely interested in respecting the rule of law it should issue a statement immediately ending the practice and advising that the Constitution will be respected,” said Coltart.