SABC News - Plea bargain agreements in the spotlight again:Saturday 17 September 2011

Plea bargain agreements in the spotlight again

Saturday 17 September 2011 18:17


Bees Roux a free man today(SABC)

The ruling in the case of Blue Bulls rugby player Bees Roux has again thrown the issue of plea bargain agreements into the spotlight.

A few weeks ago Roux walked out of the Pretoria High Court a free man after being charged with beating to death metro police officer Ntshimane Mogale.

However the state and the defense in that case agreed to a plea bargain and all Roux received was a suspended sentence and was ordered to compensate Mogale's widow R750.

The Mogale family has been criticised for agreeing to the plea bargain and accepting the money.

However  Mogale was the sole breadwinner of the family and it's a case of survival.

Mogale's Brother Richard Kgobong says: "The guy was going to plead for culpable homicide and not for murder. Culpable homicide means a lesser sentence  and to me it gives the impression that its still zero. So we had to look at the needs of the widow and the children instead."

South Africa recognises plea bargaining as an integral part of the criminal justice system

A win win situation if you want.  The victim gets compensation, and the state saves on time and money and secures a conviction.

But plea bargains are often challenged as only helping those with deep pockets.  Often its seen as a necessary evil -  indemnifying lesser accomplices to spill the beans.  

Other controversial cases include that of slain mining magnate Brett Kebble where the three gunmen turned state witness and walked -  to date no-one has been prosecuted for the high-profile murder.

In 2005 the son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pleaded guilty over his involvement in an alleged coup in Equatorial Guinea.

Mark Thatcher struck a plea bargain and got away with a 500-thousand US dollar fine. 

Mthunzi Mhaga of the NPA  says the system is a legitimate tool. 

"Whenever we get into such negotiations, we take into account the strength of our cases, we consult everyone and instead of a protracted trial we can finalise a case in an hour." he says.

Since 2001 South Africa recognises plea bargaining as an integral part of the criminal justice system - primarily to speed up cases. 

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