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South African Criminal Justice System South African Criminal Justice System

Bronze medal Reporter Adv. Thomson Posted 31 Jan 2019 Read More News and Blogs
South African Criminal Justice System


South Africa has a relatively well developed and modern criminal justice system which draws its roots from a blend of Roman Dutch and English law and has, over the years, drawn and borrowed from a variety of respected international legal systems. The Constitution (Act No 108 of 1996) was designed to provide a system of human rights either not previously available to all citizens or not entrenched in law.


South African criminal courts run on an adversarial system which means that there will always be two opposing parties litigating, with the magistrate or judge sitting as neutral arbitrator or umpire. The District and Regional courts are presided over by Magistrates and the High Courts by Judges. District and Regional Courts are where most cases are heard, so we have begun with these lower courts.


If you are the accused in a criminal case, you must remember that the South African system presumes every accused person innocent until proven guilty. It is this core value that underpins our South African Justice system. It is for this reason that our Constitution seeks to protect those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law and to protect them against any abuse of power vested in those agencies that seek to uphold the law.



The South African Criminal Justice System involves the following steps:

  • The  South African Police Service or SAPS prevent crime, investigate crime, and catch suspected criminals.
  • The prosecution service ( National Prosecuting Authority) decide whether or not to prosecute someone who is suspected of having committed a crime.
  • The presiding officer and the judiciary decide if the accused is innocent or guilty after having heard evidence.
  • The Department of Justice provides accessible and quality justice for all.

  • The prison system, run by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), makes sure that sentences are carried out. They also try to rehabilitate the convicted criminals in their care.
  • For poor and vulnerable people, social services are provided by the probation officer/social worker. They work with victims of crime, families and communities. The Minister of Social Development will appoints the probation officers.  and are officers of every magistrate's court.

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