Drawing on sections of the Criminal Procedures Act, we are making an appeal as concerned citizens, rhino owners and organisations to the South African Department of Justice and Provincial Magistrates to deny bail to all suspected rhino poachers. Please add your voice and make a difference for rhinos.
We, the undersigned, as owners of rhino populations and concerned citizens, hereby voice our opposition to the granting of bail for rhino poaching accused.
A significant amount of state, private and public funding and resources are being used to either prevent (or investigate) rhino poaching incidents. Rhino poaching is on the increase, yet the perpetrators - who are extremely difficult to apprehend - are then usually released on bail.
The black market value of rhino horn is reportedly many hundreds of thousands of Rands. Granting bail to rhino poaching accused, in the most recent cases a mere R5,000 and R10,000 respectively, coupled with the lengthy court process, is no deterrent for suspected poachers. The promise of lucrative rewards coupled with the low probability of being arrested serves to attract new poaching syndicate members, with the bail conditions for "first time offenders" working positively in their favour.
- There is a high probability that accused out on bail will continue to be involved in rhino poaching activities, which is now listed as a priority crime.
- The granting of bail in intelligence driven arrests exposes and endangers informants, security providers as well as law enforcement officers.
- Poaching syndicates are well equipped and trained and pose a high risk to land owners and security staff.
Rhino owners, their families and staff see the violent way in which their animals were killed and know that poachers were on their farms with automatic assault rifles. They see the brutal panga and axe chopping that took place to remove rhino horns and feel unsafe and threatened on their own farms.
- Intensified security measures on farms, coupled with the increase of community policing and public volunteer groups to help protect rhino exposes an increased number of people to dangerous poaching gangs/syndicates, and demonstrates that the rhino owners and public have no sense of peace and security.
- The granting of bail weakens and undermines the morale and efforts of rhino owners (be they private, provincial or national), security personnel and the South African Police Services to confront and apprehend those involved in rhino poaching.
- The rhino poaching epidemic in Southern Africa has got to the point where we are losing animals on an almost daily basis. Last year, at least 333 rhinos were slaughtered by poachers in this country alone. Based on current trends, over 400 rhino will be brutally killed by poachers in 2011.
- Rhino poachers have caused a sense of outrage and shock amongst South African and International citizens.
- Social media networks show the extent of this public outcry, all criticizing and openly expressing the lack of public confidence in the criminal justice system and Government on the issue of granting bail to suspected poachers.
- The rhino is a threatened and protected species. It is also the flagship animal for conservation success and a heritage icon for South Africa.
- Higher bail would simply be paid by wealthy syndicates.
At the time of writing, 123 arrests have been made in South Africa since the start of 2011, which have resulted in only six successful convictions. This reflects a disheartening conviction rate of only 4.9%, which is just over double 2010's deplorable 2.4%, stemming from a mere four convictions out of a reported 165 arrests.
Applying strict penalties for wildlife crimes such as rhino poaching will demonstrate the South African government's commitment to maintaining this important part of the country's heritage.
There is an urgent need to send a strong message to rhino poachers, to safeguard rhino populations from poachers by all means possible and to grow public confidence in our legal system.
We ask that the Criminal Procedure Act: Act 50. 51 of 1977 be applied to deny bail of all accused in rhino poaching cases.
CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT: ACT NO. 51 OF 1977
Section 60. Bail application of accused in court.
(4) The interests of justice do not permit the release from detention of an accused where one or more of the following grounds are established:
(a) Where there is the likelihood that the accused, if he or she were released on bail, will endanger the safety of the public or any particular person or will commit a Schedule 1 offence;
(b) where there is the likelihood that the accused, if he or she were released on bail, will attempt to evade his or her trial; or
(c) where there is the likelihood that the accused, if he or she were released on bail, will attempt to influence or intimidate witnesses or to conceal or destroy evidence; or
(d) where there is the likelihood that the accused, if he or she were released on bail, will undermine or jeopardise the objectives or the proper functioning of the criminal justice system, including the bail system;
(e) where in exceptional circumstances there is the likelihood that the release of the accused will disturb the public order or undermine the public peace or security;
Section (5) In considering whether the ground in subsection (4) (a) has been established, the court may, where applicable, take into account the following factors, namely-
(a) the degree of violence towards others implicit in the charge against the accused;
( f ) the prevalence of a particular type of offence;
(8A) In considering whether the ground in subsection (4) (e) has been established, the court may, where applicable, take into account the following factors, namely-
(a) whether the nature of the offence or the circumstances under which the offence was committed is likely to induce a sense of shock or outrage in the community where the offence was committed;
(b) whether the shock or outrage of the community might lead to public disorder if the accused is released;
(c) whether the safety of the accused might be jeopardized by his or her release;
(d) whether the sense of peace and security among members of the public will be undermined or jeopardized by the release of the accused;
(e) whether the release of the accused will undermine or jeopardize the public confidence in the criminal justice system; or
( f ) any other factor which in the opinion of the court should be taken into account.
TO ALL WHO HAVE TAKEN THE TIME TO READ AND SIGN THIS PETITION, THANK YOU. FOR MORE INFORMATION ON RHINO POACHING, VISIT www.stoprhinopoaching.com