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Plan for tougher punishment for drunk drivers is a joke: legal expert

The plan by authorities to have drunk driving reclassified as a schedule 5 offence is “laughable”, according to legal professor James Grant.

Reports this past weekend revealed the Road Traffic Management Corp (RTMC)’s plan to push driving under the influence from a schedule 2 offence to a schedule 5 offence, which would place drunk driving in the same ‘category’ of crimes as rape and murder.

It also wants arrested drivers to spend at least seven days behind bars before they can be considered for bail.

The push comes as we head into the festive season, which is a notoriously bad time for motorists in South Africa, where the number of road deaths spike, and cases of DUI also ramp up.

However, according to Wits professor of criminal law James Grant, the proposed changes make no sense at all and are laughable.

“It’s frankly laughable,” he said in an interview on 702, “It so confuses the law, and is so out of touch with what has become accepted when trying to crack down on criminal activity.”

According to Grant, it is widely known that it is not the extent of punishment, but the certainty of punishment that is most effective in curbing criminal behaviour.

Further, using the bail system as a form of punishment goes against the whole purpose of the system.

“The bail system is not a system designed to be used to punish people – in fact it’s expressly designed not to be used that way,” he said. “The RTMC’s proposal is to explicitly use the bail system to punish people.”

The proposal was more like a scare tactic, akin to asking that the death penalty be reintroduced to combat drunk driving, he said.

“The only thing that would work is if they trained their officers to take the necessary samples in the required time period and to protect those samples – to get their officers out on the streets,” Grant said.

“The suggestion that suspicion of drunk driving, or speeding, be placed in the same category as murder or rape has to be regarded as preposterous,” he said.

 This article was sourced from BusinessTech; the original publication can be viewed here.

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