A motorist sentenced to a R4 000 fine or eight months in prison, suspended for three years on condition he wasn’t caught speeding again, is off the hook because the Kroonstad Magistrate’s Court convicted Nkosinathi Gama incorrectly for contravening section 59 of the National Road Traffic Act.

According to a Times Select report, Judge Ingrid Opperman, reviewing the case in the Free State High Court (Bloemfontein), sent a query to the Kroonstad court, asking why the handwritten version of the court record was different from the typed version she had received.

She also queried why the court had convicted the man according to section 59 of that Act, since this seemed ‘irrelevant to the offence’. The magistrate admitted the typed record had differed from the original, and that the man should have been charged with contravening section 59 of the National Road Traffic Regulation Act.

The inquiry was then placed in the hands of Acting Judge Vuyo Morobane, who wrote: ‘The manner in which the charge was formulated and put to the accused casts doubt as to whether or not he was correctly charged in the first place. To what exactly did he plead guilty? Did he contravene the whole section 59 of the Act or certain subsections thereof? Such an ambiguity affects the accused person’s right to a fair trial.’

He set aside Gama’s conviction and sentence.

Full Times Select report (subscription needed)

State v Gama