Multi-Party Women's Caucus: Domestic Violence Act implementation: Department of Police briefing

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

22 November 2011
Chairperson: Ms D Ramodibe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The South African Police Service / Department of Police (SAPS) gave a response to questions raised at a previous meeting of the Committee, on the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA). The Department stated that there was formal reporting of domestic violence in place, and set out in some detail what the National Instructions 7/1999 contained in relation to the responsibilities and duties of the station commander and all members attending to domestic violence cases. It also highlighted the Station Orders, the requirements around Incident Reports, and noting of information in the member’s pocket book pocket book and station registers, as well as the requirements if cases were dealt with at Community Service Centres. Circulars of the national Commissioner, dated September 2011, also contained instructions to provincial and divisional commissioners, to enforce compliance. Concerns by the Committee as to the accuracy of statistics were answered by saying that accurate statistics were in place, and the compilation, forwarding and consolidation of figures by stations, provinces and the SAPS Visible Policing division were described. SAPS could not report on all domestic violence reports over the last year, as the figures were only released up to March 2011. However, there were 35 495 cases reported between September and December 2010. Additional figures would be provided in writing as soon as possible. It was noted that even if no charges were laid or arrests were made, every incident reported had to be reported. The procedure for investigation of incidents involving firearms was explained, and the information was captured on the Firearm control system. The requirements of the Firearms Control Act were laid out. It was noted that 11 firearms were removed under a declaration by the Registrar of unfitness to possess a firearm, and 10 were removed on the order of a Court. The Committee had enquired about the mechanisms in place to ensure that police advised the complainant to obtain a protection order, obtain medical care, retrieve their personal property, where necessary and find suitable shelter, and full answers were given to this, including the SAPS requirements for appointing dedicated members, training, volunteer and partnership programmes, and establishment of victim-friendly rooms at police stations. The procedures for obtaining a medical order were also set out, as well as those for retrieving personal property, stressing that the police’s function was merely to ensure the safety of the complainant. Finally, Members had asked about training, and it was reported that 77 897 SAPS members had been trained on domestic violence, and a breakdown of those figures was given.

Members noted that the report indicated what should be done but said that it did not in fact report what was being done and commented that although in theory the measures were good, they felt that implementation on the ground was lacking. They asked for more details on in-service training, and whether it was considered sufficient. Members also again raised concerns about the trauma suffered by many police officials, asked about the counselling, and what was done to try to dispel the notion that calling for counselling indicated weakness. They were concerned that more safe havens for victims should be provided, were worried that the system of protection orders was not working well, asked what was being done to work with disabled people and encouraged skills training at victim shelters to further victim empowerment. Members also asked about the use of vehicles, particularly in rural areas. SAPS noted that its responses today were directed to the specific questions asked at the last meeting, so that not everything was reported upon. Members then asked for clarity on what was being done to try to implement recommendations and answer calls for reports from the Independent Complaints Directorate, asked about the disciplinary processes, and why some cases took so long to come to court, asked for figures on the number of firearms confiscated, asked if SAPS verified, in respect of court delays, whether people absent from court were really ill, questioned why perpetrators seemed to be released so easily on bail, questioned the apparent difficulties around the emergency helpline, and commented that people were losing confidence in the police. They urged that attention be paid to recruitment to try to improve the standard of personnel.

Meeting report

Domestic Violence Act implementation: Department of Police responses to questions from a previous meeting
General Godfrey Lebeya, Deputy National Commissioner: Crime Detection, South African Police Service, noted that the briefing today by the South African Police Service / the Department of Police (SAPS or the Department) was a response to the questions previously asked on implementation of the Domestic Violence Act (DVA)

The Committee had firstly asked if there was a formal reporting of domestic violence and what measures were put in place to ensure entries that were made into the Domestic Violence Register (SAPS 508b) were made correctly after each reported incident of domestic violence.

Major General Susan Pienaar, Head: Crime Protection, South African Police Service, said, in response to this, that there was a formal reporting of domestic violence in place. The National Instruction (NI) 7/1999 was clear about the responsibilities and duties of the station commander and all members attending to Domestic Violence cases. In addition there were Station Orders developed to facilitate members’ compliance in this regard. Corresponding entries were made in the SAPS 508(b), the Occurrence Book (SAP10) and the member’s pocket book (SAP 206), and instructions required regular inspection of those registers. In September 2011 the
National Commissioner issued a circular with additional instructions to all Provincial and Divisional Commissioners to put additional measures in place to ensure and enforce compliance. The Department also had additional instructions issued to enhance compliance.

The Department had seen to the appointment of specific capacity at all Brigadier and Colonel stations for dealing solely with domestic violence cases and complaints, and capacity at other stations for dealing with all compliance issues relating to crimes against women and children. A Deputy National Commissioner would be designated to take full command and control over the proper implementation of the Domestic Violence Act by South African Police Service (SAPS) officials. Every Station Commander had to submit a monthly certificate to the Provincial Commissioner to indicate additional measures in place as well as compliance in terms of the Domestic Violence Act. Every Cluster Commander had to visit all stations in his or her cluster at least once every month to confirm that the station commander complied with the regulations pertaining to the DVA, and submit a report on this to the Provincial Commissioner. The Provincial Inspectorate had to submit a report to the Provincial Commissioner once every three months on compliance by the stations visited by him or her, and point out any non-compliance with the DVA or National Instruction, concerning domestic violence incidents.

The second question asked by the Committee was whether accurate statistics were kept for monthly logging of domestic violence cases in the report of the Domestic Violence Incident Form (SAPS 508a). In answer to this, Maj-Gen Pienaar noted that the Department did have accurate statistics in place on domestic violence cases. As soon as a victim of domestic violence was attended to, a SAP 508 (a) Incident Report was completed. A corresponding entry was then made in the SAP 508 (b) Register. This register captured the number of DV incidents reported on a monthly basis. Further to this, the corresponding Occurrence Book (OB) and Pocket entries were made. The statistics entered in the SAPS 508 (b) were then compiled, on a monthly basis, together with all incidents of non-compliance and submitted to the Province. The Province had to consolidate and forward these figures to the SAPS Division for Visible Policing, which in turn was responsible for compiling the six-monthly reports to Parliament in terms of Section 18 of the Domestic Violence Act, 1998.

The third question from the Committee was how many cases of domestic violence had been reported from September 2010 to September 2011. In answer to this, Maj-Gen Pienaar noted that the crime statistics had so far been released for the period only up to the end of March 2011.  Statistics for any period since that date could only be provided with the express approval of the Minister of Police. 

The number of domestic violence cases reported from September 2010 until 31 December 2010 was 35 495.
She explained that the confirmed figures for January, February and March 2011 were not available in time for inclusion in this response. The additional information would be provided to the Committee in writing as soon as possible.

The next question asked by Members was whether there were reasons, in some instances, to make an entry in the pocket book that the police attended to the domestic violence scene but no charges had been laid or arrests made. In response, Maj-Gen Pienaar noted that the National Instructions required that in every instance where the police attended, detailed entries had to be made in the SAPS member’s pocket book, with corresponding entries in the OB (SAPS 10).

The fifth question asked by the Committee was whether there was a standard investigation procedure followed in relation to domestic violence incidents involving firearms and, if so, what that procedure was. Maj-Gen Pienaar noted that the SAPS did have a standard procedure to follow regarding domestic violence incidents involving firearms. The procedure required that the SAPS member should seize the firearm involved, keep it in the SAPS 13, and conduct an investigation under section 102 of the Firearms Control Act, to determine the fitness to possess a firearm

The sixth question from the Committee was whether the Department had a record of the outcomes when firearms were removed. Maj-Gen Pienaar noted that SAPS did have a record of outcomes because all the information had to be captured on the Firearm control system.

The next query from Members related to the circumstances under which the removal of a firearm would be done. Maj-Gen Pienaar noted that in terms of the
Firearms Control Act, 2000, the Registrar might declare a person unfit to possess a firearm if, on the grounds of information contained in a statement under oath or affirmation, including a witness statement, it appeared that:
(a)  a final protection order had been issued against such person in terms of the DVA;
(b)  that person had expressed the intention to kill or injure himself or herself or any other person by using a firearm or other dangerous weapon; or
(c)  because of that person's mental condition, inclination to violence or dependence on any intoxicating or narcotic substance, it would not be in the interests of that person or any other person that the firearm be in his/her possession

Maj-Gen Pienaar added that in terms of section 110(1) of the Firearms Control Act, No 60 of 2000,  a police member could, without a warrant, enter into and search a place or person and seize any arm or ammunition, for purposes which may include declaring a person unfit to possess a firearm.

Question 8 from Members asked
how many firearms were removed nationally, in terms of the DVA, in the period September 2010 – September 2011. Maj-Gen Pienaar noted that there were 11 confiscations effected under section 102 (which was a declaration by the Registrar that a person was unfit to possess a firearm), and 10 pursuant to section 103 (a declaration of unfitness to possess a firearm by the Court).

Members’ ninth question addressed the mechanisms in place
at station level to ensure that the police had advised the complainant to obtain a protection order, obtain medical care, retrieve their personal property, where necessary and find suitable shelter. In answer to this, Maj-Gen Pienaar noted that there were procedures that had to be followed in obtaining orders. The National Instruction 7/99, in paragraph 10, compelled members attending to domestic violence cases to inform the victim of his/her rights, including the right to apply for a protection order. The SAPS also required that there should be appointment of dedicated members for domestic violence at police stations, and training of members working at the frontline services of Community Service Centres (CSC), and of investigators, on dealing with domestic violence and victim support. SAPS also had volunteer or partnership programmes with other departments or non governmental organisations (NGOs), where trained volunteers also assisted victims with information and the process to obtain protection orders. SAPS required the establishment of victim friendly rooms at police stations, where police members or volunteers could assist victims and provide information. SAPS instructions also required that a referral list of service providers be available in the CSC and the Victim Friendly Rooms.

The procedure for obtaining a medical order was stipulated in Paragraph 3(6) of National Instruction 7/1999, which set out specific provisions for assistance with obtaining medical care. As a minimum requirement, SAPS members had to ask the complainant whether he or she required medical treatment and, if so, assist or make arrangements for this to be given. SAPS must also, in the case where a criminal charge had been laid, issue a J88 and SAPS 308 form for completion by a registered medical practitioner. If any such assistance was rendered at the CSC, then it must be recorded in the Occurrence Book, together with a description of any injuries to the complainant that the SAPS member might have observed. If the assistance was rendered at another place, then it must be recorded in the SAPS member’s Pocket Book (SAPS 206), with a description of any injuries that the SAPS member might have observed (in terms of paragraph 9 of the NI 7/1999).

Maj-Gen Pienaar added that the DVA and National Instructions made specific provision for police members to assist in retrieving personal property where necessary, if specified in a protection order. The Court might, when making a protection order, order a peace officer (which included any SAPS member) to accompany the complainant to a specified place, and to assist with arrangements to collect the personal property specified in the order. The purpose of SAPS accompanying the complainant was to ensure the safety of such complainant, and the SAPS member should not become involved in any dispute about the ownership of the property.

She added that paragraph 3.6 of the National Instructions, and the station orders, also made provision that SAPS members should assist the complainants in finding a suitable shelter. Members had to provide the complainant with the details of any organisation in the area that might be able to provide suitable shelter and relevant support, and/or counselling services, and had to assist the complainant to contact that organisation, and assist in arranging transport. As a last resort only, SAPS had to transport the complainant in a police vehicle to find a suitable shelter, if such a vehicle was available and there was no other means of transport, but in this event, the complainant must be advised that she or he was being transported at own risk. Any assistance that was rendered had to be recorded in the OB SAPS 10 (if in the CSC) or the Pocket Book (SAPS 206) of the member rendering the assistance, if not rendered in the CSC.

Question 10 asked what measures were in place to ensure the safety of victims who had reported incidents of domestic violence. Maj-Gen Pienaar said that a SAPS member who attended at a domestic violence scene had to determine whether the complainant was in any danger and take all reasonable steps to secure the scene, as set out in paragraph 6 of NI 7/1999. The DVA and Criminal Procedure Act of 1977, as well as SAPS Standing Order 341, provided for powers of arrest as well as policing powers for entering of premises and the use of force in the execution of police responsibilities.

The last question from
Members was how many people received relevant training to deal with domestic violence related cases. Maj-Gen Pienaar noted that since 2005, 77 897 SAPS members had been trained on domestic violence. Of these, 53 645 members had done the 5-Day Domestic Violence Training Learning Module during basic training at the police colleges. 18 547 members underwent the Domestic Violence training programmes after Basic Training and a total of 5 705 members underwent the Victim Empowerment training programmes after Basic Training (as part of In-service Police Development).

The Chairperson said that this report did not actually highlight what had been done regarding domestic violence, but only indicated what SAPS was supposed to do.

Ms D Robinson (DA) concurred with those remarks. SAPS was obviously correct in the theory but she was still worried about the implementation.  She had spoken to various police officers and could see that they expressed fear for speaking out because of possible victimisation. In one instance a SAPS official raped a woman in custody, but still continued to be allowed to work after the incident had been reported. This showed that although various measures were in place, implementation was lacking.

Ms Robinson acknowledged that although there were some SAPS officials who behaved incorrectly, this did not mean that all were bad. She asked for more information on the in-service training.

Ms Robinson expressed her concern about the trauma being suffered by some officials. They tended to be accused of being weak if they showed any signs of distress. She also expressed her concerns regarding lay counselors in the SAPS. They lacked proper skills, so professionals such as psychologists were needed for counseling.

Ms Robinson said that the system needed to provide more safe havens for victims, and more resources should be invested in that. She had received reports that the system of protection orders was not working well.

Ms S Rwexana (COPE) thanked the Department for the presentation and shared the Chairperson’s concerns. She agreed that this report did not clearly set out progress and challenges. It was not a secret that many South African citizens were not happy with the manner things were done within the SAPS.

The Chairperson thanked SAPS. She expressed her concern at the high rate of domestic violence in the country. She wanted to know why domestic violence figures were increasing instead of decreasing and asked what the challenges were that prevented the curbing of this violence. She asked whether various factors were taken into consideration when vehicles were distributed and utilised in rural areas. She asked for the progress on victim empowerment centres.

Lieutenant General Lebeya replied that SAPS had only responded to the questions asked, and their dissatisfaction may be due to the fact that many other issues were not addressed. The Department did identify the shortcomings regarding implementation of the Act in all provinces and did report them to the Portfolio Committee on Police, debating the issues and formulating plans to implement best practices on the legislation. One of the suggestions was that the biggest police stations in the country should at least have a dedicated person looking at the implementation of the Act.
There were two processes followed when dealing with SAPS officials involved in crime. The first process was to open a criminal case and the second was the internal Departmental disciplinary process. At times, witnesses were called for cases and the SAPS discussed with prosecutors how to approach the criminal and disciplinary process. Sometimes the Department held back on its internal disciplinary process until the criminal case had been finalised, and this was the best approach, to avoid inconsistency in the disciplinary outcome.

SAPS had a long list of cases that were currently on the Court roll. The number of arrests was high but some cases were postponed for a longer period mainly due to trying to locate witnesses.

Lieut-Gen Lebeya agreed that many SAPS officials did experience trauma, and SAPS management always did encourage its officials to call for counselling where they felt they needed it; it recognised the pressures. Management felt that counselling should be compulsory at some units for police officers who had traumatic encounters, and did not encourage the perception that this was a weakness.

He noted that the safe houses were not a SAPS initiative but the entity worked with other departments on these, and in fact they led the process and the SAPS mainly played a supportive role. SAPS acknowledged that not enough had been done regarding safe houses and that serious attention had to be paid to them.

Lieut-Gen Lebeya also commented that management was looking also to how Departmental resources like vehicles were utilised. There were sufficient vehicles but the problem lay with their distribution and use, and the Department knew that at times they were not used effectively. It was also important to note the type of vehicles given to stations for a particular function.

Maj-Gen Pienaar added that some vehicles did have tracking devices, to determine their locations in emergencies. 

He finally said that the Department had considered the challenges and gaps in the legislation and Legal Services were working on issues. However, those were not specifically spoken of since this briefing sought to address the issues raised at the last meeting.

Maj-Gen Pienaar reiterated that her presentation had addressed itself solely to the questions asked at the previous meeting. The Department acknowledged that compliance was not at the level it was supposed to be and it also fluctuated, depending on who was on duty. There was a compliance register to which all stations should adhere. Adding to what Lieut-Gen Lebeya said, she noted that the Department had engaged with various stakeholders and experts on how the DVA could be changed. There had already been provision to make counseling compulsory, as well as steps to ensure that no stigma attached to this Furthermore, counseling would be covered by SAPS medical aid for officers and their families.

In answer to the comment on counseling, she noted that volunteers or lay counselors mainly provided practical support and were not the people who provided the actual counseling within the SAPS. That actual counseling function was performed by professionals. Volunteers did not get a stipend because there was no budget and volunteer programmes were too informal.

Maj-Gen Pienaar noted that the shelters and support centres functioned well in some urban areas but did not feature at all in most rural areas.

The Chairperson was concerned at the number of firearms confiscated and asked if the SAPS were doing enough.

Lieut Gen Lebeya noted that the number of firearms confiscated was very high and he was of the view that the firearms related to domestic violence were understated at some police stations.

Ms Robinson asked if the Department verified that those absent from court, supposedly because of illness, were really ill.

Maj-Gen Lebeya acknowledged that there were various ways people would try to delay the court hearings, but the Courts usually requested medical certificates when people who were supposed to appear in court claimed to be ill, so that was something that the courts, not SAPS, would deal with.    

Ms P Petersen-Maduna (ANC) asked how the Department dealt with cases involving people with disability.

Maj-Gen Pienaar noted that there were real challenges in assisting people with disabilities, especially at police stations. For example, many police officials could not speak or understand sign language in order to communicate effectively with deaf people. Members of the police were trained not to discriminate against those with disabilities. Although SAPS tried to cater for vulnerable groups, it acknowledged its shortcomings in this regard, and was trying to arrange to work with various other entities dealing with the rights of vulnerable groups, especially those dealing with people with disabilities.

The Chairperson wanted to know if some police officials knew what they had to do regarding registers and asked whether the entity was satisfied with the training given to officials.  

Ms M Nxumalo (ANC) felt the report had answered all the questions previously asked. She wanted to know why some perpetrators of violence were released soon after being arrested, and also thought they received bail too easily.

Ms Nxumalo felt that the services of SAPS were not up to scratch, especially with regard to the 10111 emergency helpline. Many people lost confidence in the police because of bad service. It was of serious concern that police were killing their own families and other officials. She enquired what awareness programmes on domestic violence were in place, especially in rural areas.

Ms D Robinson (DA) agreed that police were seen as the friend of people in the past but that seemed to have changed. It was important for the Department to look at its recruitment process so that the best candidates could be recruited. She said that more direct services were needed in areas where there were high crime rates.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) wondered if the Department could come up with programmes to empower victims in support centres so that they could become self-sustaining and independent.

Lieut-Gen Lebeya said there was an expectation nationwide about reducing domestic violence. The SAPS would also like to see crimes reduced. The main challenge with domestic violence was that it was committed by family members, meaning that a much deeper understanding of social issues was needed. SAPS had to react to a situation that had already occurred and was reported. SAPS would ideally like to see more preventative initiatives, and understood the importance of working with communities.

Lieut-Gen Lebeya said that there were more resources distributed to previously disadvantaged areas in the past, whilst also trying not to reduce resources to other areas. He agreed that more resources were needed in areas such as the Eastern Cape. SAPS was looking at providing specialised units in areas with a high crime rate. The point of departure was that every cluster should have specialised units. SAPS was considering having satellites at busy police stations to support main units of a particular cluster.

He noted that the Department held imbizos across all provinces explaining the type of services rendered by the police to communities. Many perpetrators were arrested with the assistance of communities. Members who were arrested were considered suspects only, and were presumed innocent until proven guilty by the court processes. It should be noted that suspects had rights which were guaranteed under the constitution and he stressed that their rights had to be respected. All suspects had the right to apply for bail prior to their trial. Although the SAPS would like to see suspects of domestic violence not being granted bail, and tried to oppose it where it could, he stressed that it was up to Parliament to review the laws around bail if MPs and the public were unhappy about bail being granted. SAPS was working with the Department of Justice as to how best to strengthen opposition to bail in some cases, and here he noted that prosecutors would have to argue as to why suspects should not be released on bail, and provide the necessary evidence to support their claims. Protests outside courts might also have a bearing on the bail outcome.

Maj-Gen Lebeya noted that the Department had taken into account the concerns raised regarding the slow response to the 10111 emergency helpline. The main cause of the slow response was to do with the distribution of vehicles. The Department had started to look at the reaction times and opted to put cellphone numbers on patrolling vehicles, so that people could call a cellphone number instead of the 10111 number.

Maj-Gen Lebeya noted that SAPS shared the Committee’s concerns about SAPS officials harming their own families and tried to counsel to stop this. The National Planning Commission had also advised that the recruitment process into SAPS be reviewed. The Department was looking at continuous ways of improving recruitment, including psychological testing and working with experts from other countries on benchmarking best practices.

Maj-Gen Pienaar answered the questions on training. SAPS members had to attend a five day domestic violence course as part of their training. The training was reviewed and the Department was determined that the course would set out what had to be done in a very comprehensive way. Management agreed to continuously review the training by interviewing people who finished the course and assessing the impact of the course.

Maj-Gen Pienaar agreed with her colleague that SAPS saw domestic violence as social problem and not just a police issue. Education was therefore important to try to prevent domestic violence. The only way in which the police could deal with domestic violence effectively was when incidents were reported, when it could then refer victims to centres of victim empowerment. Referral was another important preventative step. She noted that most incidents of domestic violence were directly linked to alcohol abuse. SAPS also considered working with businesses in creating awareness.

Ms C Blaai (COPE) said that recent presentations by the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) indicated the various challenges in relation to the DVA, especially around resolution of cases. ICD had indicated that it was still awaiting responses from SAPS on the resolution of cases, and asked how it was resolving cases and dealing with the other challenges.

Maj-Gen Pienaar said the report from ICD dated back two years, and after it was tabled, the Department had to follow up on the issues with provinces. Some provinces had a good working relationship with ICD and the Department of Police agreed to address all the challenges raised by the ICD. The Department requested the ICD to provide all outstanding information to address some of the cases and would report on all issues to Parliament in the future.

The Chairperson asked for comment on those instances where some officers recorded rape, abuse and domestic violence as something else in order to lower the statistics on crimes against women and vulnerable groups.

Mr Kekana said the Department of Correctional Services had some excellent rehabilitation programmes to allow inmates to gain skills that would enable them to be productive and self-sustaining once they were released, and wondered why the same kind of programmes could not be offered to those victims living in shelters.

Lieut-Gen Lebeya shared the same views as Mr Kekana on the empowerment of women in shelters. SAPS and other departments must evaluate how the system could empower people to be more productive and self-sustaining. Research needed to be done to assess the viability.

The Chairperson commented that Members would have wanted to raise more questions, if time permitted. She agreed that the police should be seen as “friends of the citizens”, but commented that if they were not present, people tended to take the law into their own hands. This Committee would engage with the Department of Justice on some of the issues raised, as domestic violence was very serious. SAPS was facing challenges, but she was pleased to note that best practices were being established. Some issues were also not just the responsibility of the SAPS and therefore the Committee would engage with other Departments also. She urged SAPS to look again at its recruitment strategy, to try to employ more dedicated and committed people.

The meeting was adjourned.


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