The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) is pleased with the judgement handed down in our favour by the Labour Court in Port Elizabeth over the Fitness Boards conducted by the South African Police Service (SAPS). The boards were set up by the National Commissioner to investigate and take action against police officers who have criminal records. We approached the court in March 2014 seeking a review to set aside as unconstitutional, void and without legal force the following actions by SAPS;
• The decision to convene a fitness in terms of section 34 (1) of the SAP Act, 65 of 1995 (“the Police Act”) in respect of those member who fall within the ambit of Section 36 of the Act prior to 01 September 2013.
• The decision to require the investigation into all members who have been convicted of an offense and had been sentenced, as contemplated by section 36 and members who have criminal records prior to 01 September 2013.
• The decision to discipline members who are found unfit by the said fitness boards, as a result of criminal records and as contemplated by Section 36 prior to 01 September 2013. The Labour court yesterday (11.06.2014) ruled that the decision to convene Fitness Boards in terms of Section 34 (1) (1) of the South African Police Act, 66 of 1995 in respect of members who have been convicted of statutory or common law offenses whilst serving as members prior to the 01st of September 2013 is unlawful, void and without legal force and effect.
The court ordered that the fitness boards convened in respect of such members pursuant to the National Commissioner’s decision were unlawfully convened and have no legal force or effect. Judge R Lagrange also ruled that the power given to the Commissioner under the Provisions of Section 34 (1) (I) does not include the power to convene a Fitness board of inquiry in respect of a misconduct which should be dealt with under the SAPS Disciplinary Regulations.
POPCRU does not and has never disputed the entitlement of SAPS to dismiss officers who commit crimes. What resulted in the organisation approaching the court was the process which SAPS adopted to address the problem of its employees with criminal records as we found it to be grossly unfair and unlawful.
Issued by POPCRU on 12 June 2014
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