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Lockdown Criminal Records To Be Expunged But Not Yet

An SANDF soldier and a police officer check on a member of the public during the lockdown in Woodstock, Cape Town on 27 March 2020. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/EWN

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The government said it is considering expunging the criminal records of people who have violated lockdown regulations but it won’t do this now because it wants to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Tens of thousands of people have criminal records since the State of Disaster was enacted almost a year ago.

Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that about 20,000 people have been arrested for violating the latest lockdown regulations. 

Nearly 7,500 of them were not wearing a mask in public. 

Paying the admission of guilt fine carries with it more than just a financial penalty.

While speaking on eNCA, Justice Project SA’s Howard Dembovsky said that if you have been arrested and your fingerprints have been taken then a criminal record will be recorded against your particulars, no matter how minor that offence is and that will actively prevent you from gaining employment, and it will also prevent you from gaining a travel visa to other countries. That will endure for a period of 10 years.

The suggestion is that the fines ought to be handled like speeding tickets – which don’t carry criminal records.

Dembovsky said that these criminal records are enduring and there is no apparent reason why the minister of Co-operative Governance should actually declare these things to be criminal offences when she could just as easily prescribe administrative fines or in fact ask people to do community service.

The government said it’s concerned by the large number of people earning criminals records but its priority is curbing COVID-19.

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