News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Saturday February 16th 2019

Taxi driver sentenced to 20-years

After being sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of murdering ten children who died in the minibus he was driving when hit by a train, Jacob Humphreys is taken into custody by police in Cape High Court. Photo: Sandiso Phaliso/WCN

Taxi driver Jacob Humphreys was sentenced to an effective 20 years in jail by Judge Robert Henney in the Western Cape High Court yesterday and had his driver’s license cancelled with immediate effect.

In a groundbreaking case, Humphreys was convicted of ten counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder after the taxi in which he was transporting children to school was hit by a train on August 25, 2010.

Overtaking a queue of cars and ignoring warning signs and lowered booms, Humphreys unsuccessfully tried to make it over the railway tracks at the Buttskop level crossing in Blackheath.

Drivers involved in fatal accidents are usually charged with culpable homicide but the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) managed to get a conviction of murder in Humphreys’s case.

Humphreys was sentenced to 12-years in prison for each of the ten murders and eight-years for each of the four attempted murders.

However, the sentences would run concurrently, translating into a 20-year jail term and his leave to appeal was dismissed by Judge Henney.

NPA Western Cape spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila welcomed the sentence, saying it would act as a deterrent to other drivers and send a strong message to the public that causing loss of life through reckless driving was punishable.

Transport and Public Works MEC Robin Carlisle also welcomed the sentence.

Henney said the defense’s proposal that Humphreys be given a suspended sentence was not appropriate.

Referring to Humphreys driving recklessly on the day in question, Henney said he was “in agreement with (state prosecutor Susan)Galloway that there was sufficient time for the accused to consider his actions”.

“A court should exercise caution and not swerve from serving the interest of justice,” said Henney, in handing down the sentence, adding that Humphreys “refused to take responsibility for his actions” by not taking the witness stand in his mitigation of sentence.

Henney dismissed defense advocate Johan Engelbrecht’s application for leave to appeal, saying he was of the view that a different court would come to the same conclusion.

“There is no better example than this (case),” said Henney.

Outside court Engelbrecht could not say whether Humphreys would petition the SCA.

Ursula Pedro, mother to deceased Jason Pedro, who was 17 at the time, said: “I am glad the case is over but I am not happy with the number of years he (Humphreys) got.

“I know it is going to be a long time for him behind bars, but the years seem too little.”

Bryan van Heerdal, father to deceased seven-year-old Reece van Heerdal, said he felt “relieved justice has been served,” but said Humphreys “should have got a harsher sentence.”

Ntabazalila said the sentence, combined with the conviction of murder, was an “aggressive approach” with which the NPA would continue in prosecuting reckless drivers involved in fatal accidents. – Sandiso Phaliso

Tags: Blackheath, Bryan van Heerdal, Buttskop level crossing, Eric Ntabazalila, Jacob Humphreys, Jason Pedro, Johan Engelbrecht, Judge Robert Henney, National Prosecuting Authority, Reece van Heerdal, Robin Carlisle, Susan Galloway, Ursula Pedro, Western Cape High Court

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