It seems understandable that if you were in an accident in which you could have been killed, caused by someone allegedly driving drunk, that you would feel that the alleged culprit not be released on bail and that the person’s licence should be suspended. But is this how it works?
The Rajoo family were driving along Simonstown Road, near Dixies restaurant, on Sunday August 28, at 12.45pm, when a speeding car crashed into them, pushing their car into two parked cars.
The parents were trapped in their car and their daughter managed to stagger out the back.
Sarojini Rajoo, who was driving, said that they were all transported by ambulance to hospital.
“My daughter was in a wheelchair for a couple of days and now she is on crutches. I hit the steering wheel with such force that the airbag crashed into my chest so I have lower back injuries and had a bloody, bruised face from the impact of the airbag.”
She said her family were all improving but were cut and bruised.
For Ms Rajoo, the incident illustrated both highs and lows. The highs were the help from bystanders, staff, patrons and residents, in particular two bikers. Patrons from the restaurant rushed out and helped her daughter, putting her in the recovery position, taking care of her, ensuring nothing was stolen and directing the traffic. A man, also overtaken by the allegedly drunk driver at great speed, stopped and offered to be a witness.
“The human kindness was amazing,” she said. Cape Medical Response were also excellent.
But Ms Rajoo is upset that the driver is on the road again.
“The drunken driver was arrested on the scene but is now out, after paying his ridiculously low bail of R500. He was previously convicted of reckless driving. Where is the justice of this? He could have killed all three of us,” she said.
“Surely his licence should have been suspended – if possible – as he was a danger on the road.”
Spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, Eric Ntabazalila, said: “Please note that the accused was arrested on August 28 and was released on bail by Simon’s Town SAPS. The accused was not released on bail by the court. His first court appearance will be November 30 as per the bail set by SAPS. SAPS Simon’s Town will have to be contacted for comment.”
Detective Warrant Officer Marius Voges of SAPS Simon’s Town said that the normal procedure when arriving at an accident scene was to assess whether there had been an offence and wheth-er a reckless and negligent driving or drunken driving case needed to be opened. Blood alcohol tests were taken if SAPS suspected anyone to be under the influence of alcohol.
If the person was driving un-der the influence of alcohol, he or she was detained until sober or until someone comes to fetch him or her.
The Echo asked Captain Stephen Knapp, communications officer for Muizenberg police, for some clarity. Do the police set bail or is it just the courts?
Captain Knapp said that the police did have the power to set bail, depending on the type (schedule) of offence as they may not detain people unnecessarily. The police are given guidelines as to whether bail may be set and the amount of bail to be set. “If he is not wanted by the police and he has a fixed address which has been confirmed, then he may be released on bail.”
Warrant Officer Voges said that bail was not there to punish the person charged, but to ensure that the suspect appeared in court on the set court date. Once the case was finalised, the bail would be refunded to the driver.
Captain Knapp said that the decision to suspend a licence could only be done by the courts once the case had been heard.