Sheriffs Amendment Bill [B2-98]: discussion

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Justice and Correctional Services

29 July 1998
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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

29 July 1998

Documents handed out:
Summary of Comments on the Sheriffs Amendment Bill
Sheriffs Act of 1986

The Chairperson, J De Lange, went through the document which contained the opinions and suggestions of the Association of Law Societies of South Africa, the Board of Sheriffs and the SA Institute of Sheriffs.
As can be seen from the document the only formal comments are on clauses 2, 4, 9, 10, and 15.

Clause 2
This clause changes the current position of having only one sheriff for a particular area by allowing there to be more than one. A criticism arising out of the opinion document is that this could lead to confusion when different sheriffs are instructed to attach the same item. The rules concerning attachment were unclear to the members but it was concluded that more than one sheriff could lead to practical problems, all of which cannot be anticipated. In essence the clause allows for competition. A committee member asked why is competition needed. The Chairperson responded that currently if you become a sheriff the system is stuck with you indefinitely. Competition would force sheriffs to do the work well and only those who perform well will be getting the work. It therefore improves service. To overcome any future practical problems the Chairperson suggested that it should be included that the minister should be allowed to pass regulations to deal with practical problems which may arise.

Clause 4
This clause deals with the composition of the Board for sheriffs.
In the Principle Act not more than twelve people can be nominated. The Bill changes this number to nine. The Chairperson suggested that the number remain twelve to allow for more scope in the appointments.

In addition clause 4(2)(a) should be amended to ensure that two sheriffs from the same province are not on the board. In the opinion document the attorney profession wanted to be represented on this board.
The Chairperson therefore suggested that 4(2)(b) should be amended to include that at least one attorney is nominated by the attorney profession.

Clause 6
This clause deals with the establishment of disciplinary committees.
The Chairperson wanted to know why it was necessary to go outside the board to appoint assessors etc. He said that it should be a simple matter but the provision makes it complex and increases the cost by getting outside help.

Clause 9 and 10
These clauses were dealt with together with the focus on Clause 9. Clause 9 prohibits the performance of the duties of a sheriff in certain circumstances. It can be seen from the opinion document that attorneys want to be exempt from this provision. The Chairperson said that the new concept of competition affords greater protection to the public and allowing attorneys to do the work of the sheriffs would result in the death of the profession and also placing too much power in the hands of lawyers. It was agreed that these provisions should remain as is.
An observer was present, Mr Williams (Admin. Assistant to the Deputy Minister),who added that if the sheriff cannot be found, an ad hoc sheriff can be appointed to complete a task. The Chairperson suggested that discussions can continue on this issue.

Clause 11 and 12
Clause 11 states that an accused can pay an admission of guilt fine.
Clause 12 deals with persons found guilty. MP Mzizi was unhappy with these clauses, especially Clause 11 because it does not stipulate what kind of misconduct is being referred to. The Chair suggested that the fine should only be made available for lesser crimes. Committee members were instructed to come with suggestions that would be discussed at a later date.

Clause 15
This clause deals with offences and punishments. The Chairperson wanted to know about sheriffs who use unnecessary force. Mr. Williams again responded and made the committee aware that assaults do take place from time to time. The Chairperson then suggested that assaults by sheriffs be criminalised by the Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.


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