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It could take years to get criminal record for lockdown breach expunged - expert

The Justice Project South Africa's Howard Dembovsky said that of the thousands who'd paid admission of guilt fines for lockdown offences, some, but not all, would have criminal records.

Police in Pretoria tell supporters of the national protest against the tobacco ban that they are not allowed to protest during lockdown. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Many South Africans could be left with a criminal record if they are caught breaking lockdown rules.

Since the inception of the COVID-19 lockdown in March, thousands of South Africans have been arrested and fined for not adhering to the regulations.

Many have opted to pay an admission of guilt fine when they've been formally arrested by police when caught to avoid a dragged out process.

But this is not necessarily in their best interest, as the Justice Project South Africa's Howard Dembovsky explains.

"If you have been arrested, you are considered to have been convicted by that court if you've paid an admission of guilt fine. The South African Police Service take your fingerprints when they arrest you and that enables them to register a criminal record against your particulars."

Dembovsky said that of the thousands who'd paid admission of guilt fines, he said that some, but not all, would have criminal records.

He explained that once the record was there, it would take years to get it expunged.

"You have to wait out a period of 10 years and only after those 10 years have elapsed are you entitled to then apply for that record to be expunged."

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