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Wednesday, 03 April 2024 21:36

Ramaphosa signs a Bill to expunge criminal records for Covid-19.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has assented to the Judicial Matters Amendment Act of 2023, which is meant to correct several practical, procedural and technical issues around non-contentious cases and constitutional judgments.

The amendments include empowering the Chief Master to supervise High Court Masters and allowing the expungement of criminal records for certain offences, including those related to the Covid-19 state of disaster regulations.

In a statement released on Wednesday, presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said the changes will lead to improved service delivery to the public and to legal practitioners.

The act also introduces measures to combat corruption in the private sector, penalises false declarations in domestic violence protection order applications, and repeals common law on defamation.

"Some of the notable amendments include a provision that allows the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, after due consultation, to determine certain categories of offences which, if the accused pays or has paid an admission of guilt fine, would not result in the accused receiving a criminal record," Magwenya said. 

"Following the minister's determination, persons who already have received a criminal record for the identified categories of offences will have their offences expunged.

"A provision for the expungement of the criminal record of a person who paid an admission of guilt fine for violating the state of disaster regulations which were imposed during the Covid pandemic," added Magwenya.

The bill also includes an additional offence in the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act regarding the failure of members of the private sector or state-owned entities to prevent corrupt activities.

"This is in line with recommendations made by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector, including Organs of State (State Capture commission)," said Magwenya. 

"Whilst the amendments may appear to be minor and technical in nature, they will significantly improve service delivery and the efficiency and responsiveness of the justice system in the related matters."

Meanwhile the Correctional Services Amendment Act, National Veld and Forest Fire Amendment Bill and the Agricultural Product Standards Amendment Bill, 2023 have been signed into law.