A hole in Pistorius conman case docket

23 March 2016 - 08:14 By GRAEME HOSKEN and SIPHO MASOMBUKA

A lack of bandwidth is hampering the roll-out of an e-docket system aimed at reducing the number of dockets that go missing, are stolen or sold to prevent prosecutions.

Tshifhiwa Reuben Radzhadzi.
Tshifhiwa Reuben Radzhadzi.
Image: Sizwe Ndingane

This came to light as Tshifhiwa Radzhadzi appeared in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court yesterday on corruption and extortion charges.

He was arrested on Friday for allegedly trying to solicit a R250,000 bribe from convicted murderer Oscar Pistorius to have his murder case quashed. He allegedly claimed to work for the National Prosecuting Authority.

The case was postponed to tomorrow for further investigation.

It is not yet known whether Radzhadzi had access to the Pistorius docket or whether he was a conman trying to make a quick buck. But the case has shone a spotlight on the vulnerability of police dockets.

Although neither the SAPS nor the NPA's 2014-2015 annual reports has the latest figures on docket losses, a police response to a parliamentary question in 2009 revealed that 688 dockets were lost in that year.

Police spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said responsibility for the protection of dockets lay with police station and detective commanders.

"There is an electronic system [e-docket] to help them do this. When a docket is opened, a duplicate is loaded onto the system. The system ensures that if a docket is lost through negligence, corruption or by another means such as a fire, it can be electronically retrieved.

"Every time a docket is updated with statements or additional evidence, this information is loaded onto the e-docket system."

But a Soweto detective, who has lost count of the number of dockets he has worked on that have gone missing in his 25-year career, said the e-docket management system did not help.

"Detectives are required to scan every document they gather, but it's not practically possible as detectives can have over 100 dockets and scanning all of these is a time- consuming exercise."

He said though it was not easy to steal a docket from the police station, courts were vulnerable.

"Here prosecutors, lawyers, court interpreters, orderlies and clerks have access to the dockets."

Last year, seven Randburg Magistrate's Court officials, including a prosecutor, two police constables, clerks and a cleaner appeared in court for allegedly selling dockets. They allegedly sold dockets for R3000 to people facing charges.

Advocate Shaun Abrahams, national director for public prosecutions, said docket safety was a serious issue.

Senior state advocate Jannie Schutte said most courts worked on a manual docket system, with the electronic case docket system not yet rolled out to prosecutors.

He said the police's e-docket system would go a long way to assist in safeguarding dockets and providing back-up information to prosecutors when dockets went missing. The NPA, he said, was developing and piloting an electronic case management system "but at this stage it does not include electronic (scanned) images of the case dockets".

''The pilot project is meant to link the information of dockets from the police, actions and decisions by the NPA and the outcomes of cases.

"But problems, especially with network bandwidth and infrastructure, are being experienced in the roll-out of the system."

The SAPS, in its 2014-2015 annual report, revealed that an investigative case docket management system had been developed to address the loss and theft of case dockets.

The report said that inefficient management of cases throughout the justice system contributed to the "loss of evidential information and case dockets result in criminals escaping prosecution".

Security analyst Andre Roux said docket safety had been a critical issue for 10 years.

The problem was that there were years of dockets that still had to be electronically captured.

"This [in courts] is where huge losses occur. Those being corrupted are not necessarily police or prosecutors in a case, but often court or police station clerks.

"With detectives having 50 to 100 cases piled up on their desks at a time, and poor infrastructure safeguards, dockets are vulnerable and easy to take."