Having a run-in with the law can leave you feeling completely powerless. Imagine feeling that way, and being falsely accused on top of everything else?
The latest scam is buzzing through the streets of Cape Town and plenty of eligible business as well as legal minds have fallen for it in order to guard against reputational damage and to avoid public humiliation .
The question however is: How far will people go or better yet, how much will they pay to avoid the facing reputational damage?.
What Does The Scam Entail?
The method is simple. An unknown number will call you, the caller will tell you that he/she is a police officer. They claim that they have a docket with your name on it and have a live warrant for your arrest for some or other sex-crime and therefore it would be classified as a schedule 6 offence. The phone call would normally be on a Thursday or Friday and the person would make it clear that getting bail would be hard for this criminal offence. The police officer will thereafter offer to make this docket disappear for a certain amount if you would be willing to pay.
What Should You Do Know If This Happens To You?
The fear of having criminal charges against you can be very overwhelming and scary. many people therefore, would just pay the bribe in order to make the "fake problem" go away and avoid the hassle..
This, however, is not a long-term solution. Paying the bribe may carry a corruption penalty or charge as well as obstruction of justice. Not only will you now be guilty of an actual offense, they will keep coming back for more pay-offs.
It is therefore important to remain calm and not to do anything drastically. According to the Minister of Police, your rights as a citizen in these instances are the following:
- You are allowed to ask for proper identification of the Police Officer;
- You are allowed to ask for the docket number;
- You are allowed to ask for the police-officer's badge number and the station he allegedly works at;
- You are allowed to ask for the charge against you and the schedule of the offence;
- You are allowed to ask for the details of the case.
"Can they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was committed."?
What does this mean? The onus of proof lies with the state to prove that you are guilty of the offence. This means that the state will have to prove your guilt with evidence such as witnesses, rape kits and other evidence that proved the sex-crime happened and that you are guilty of the offence.
What Should You Do If This Happens To You?
Consulting with a legal professional, would be a very good place to start when figuring out your plan of action.
The most important thing is to be alert. A police officer will never phone you from an unknown number and they will never ask you for money in any way.
Getting legal advice is always helpful in understanding the process of criminal procedure and having someone that is aware of the situation, should they close in and make an actual arrest.
The Minister of Police, Bheki Cele said that they are aware of the elaborate scam and that there have been several arrests of impersonators. According to him: "Such acts cannot be tolerated. At no point will police ever ask citizens for cash in exchange for favours. Citizens also have the responsibility and right to ask for identification from anyone who identifies themselves as police officers, and officers are obliged to comply with such a request.".
It appears that Cape Town is the new target-point for this scam. It is astonishing how fearful even professional minds can get when faced with the possibility of a criminal record. . These scammers feed on the fear of innocent civilians and will exploit the fact that citizens would rather pay any amount to avoid imprisonment, even if they have not committed the crime. It is therefore always important to keep calm, stay rational and reach out for legal advice.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.