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Parliamentary Bulletin

20 November 1997


While the growth in crime in the past few years cannot be denied, the increase is often more apparent than real, as crime has moved out of the townships into middle-class and privileged parts of our cities. Opposition parties have made political capital out of the crime situation, while failing to recognise the historic factors that contribute to unlawful activities, and ignoring the real progress we are making through the National Crime Prevention Strategy.

The situation has been made worse by the failure of our judicial system and police services to balance the protection offered by the Constitution to individuals, with the goals of crime prevention.

In order to strengthen the National Crime Prevention Strategy, and consolidate the recent gains we have made in reducing crime, Parliament has recently passed a number of Bills which will enable our justice and crime-management system to tackle the problem more effectively.

The Criminal Procedure Second Amendment Bill

This Bill, also known as the new `Bail Bill`, proposes a number of strict measures to aid the justice system in the fight against crime.

Stricter bail

The Bill lists very serious offences (schedule 6 offences), which include murder, rape, armed robbery and vehicle hijacking. The Bill makes it almost impossible for people who are accused of these offences to get bail. The accused will have to prove that exceptional circumstances exist before bail is granted.

For Schedule 5 cases, like robbery with aggravating circumstances, drug-dealing, arms dealing, exchange control, corruption, fraud theft or forgery of large amounts of money, the onus will now be on the accused to prove that they should get bail.

Where an accused is charged with a schedule 5 offence, and has been previously convicted of a schedule 5 or 6 offence, bail will also not normally be granted.

Higher Courts

Bail applications for Schedule 5 or 6 crimes will now only be heard in regional courts. This is to ensure that bail applications are not dealt with by the least experienced, and busiest, magistrates and prosecutors.

The Bill also requires that prosecutors and magistrates closely examine bail applications. If a prosecutor does not oppose bail, the reasons will have to be placed on record so that magistrates can make an informed decision.

Night courts

The Bill abolishes the right of accused persons to have bail applications heard outside court hours. While this does not mean that night courts cannot be held, the accused will not have the right to insist on immediate bail hearings.

In the past, when bail hearings were held in the middle of the night, police and prosecutors did not have sufficient time to prepare properly and verify information. Night courts are not proper open courts, victims can often not attend and have often not been informed about the hearings. Victims and the community are deprived of their right to state their views.

Community views

Bail can now be refused when an offence has caused community outrage. The Bill makes this clear that this will only be in exceptional circumstances. The European Court of Human Rights has upheld a similar provision in France.

Previous convictions

Under this Bill the accused will have to disclose all previous convictions and outstanding charges at the bail application. Previously it took prosecutors a month to obtain the criminal record.

No access to police docket

The accused will not have the right to access the police docket during the bail hearing. This will help to eliminate the intimidation and victimisation of witnesses in court cases.

  • This legislation will ensure that strict measures will be implemented so that people accused of serious crimes are not released onto the streets while awaiting trial.

Other Laws to Strengthen the Fight Against Crime

The Criminal Law Amendment Bill (B46 - 97) will ensure that appropriately severe sentences will be passed on people who in the past would have received the death penalty.

The Parole and Correctional Supervision Amendment Bill (B57 - 97) extends the power of the courts to ensure that a compulsory period of a sentence is served before a prisoner can be considered for parole. It provides for the establishment of parole boards composed of members of the community and representatives from all stake holders in the criminal justice system. It will regulate the composition and functions of parole boards, the functions of institutional committees, and the provisions which will apply to a prisoner`s release.

Key political messages

  • While the ANC recognises the social causes of criminal activity, this legislation shows that the ANC is tough on crime and is dealing decisively with criminal behaviour
  • Crime figures for 1997 show that we have reached a turning point in the fight against crime - the total serious crime rate decreased by a significant 2.2%
  • The crime rate is now 3.3% less than in 1994, when measured as the rate per 100,000 members of the population, and taking into account population growth

By curtailing bail for serious offences, by specifying minimum sentences for serious crimes, by establishing proper procedures for parole and empowering the courts to impose a minimum sentence to be served before parole is granted, the ANC has given teeth to the fight against crime.

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