Criminal Procedure Bill defines use of deadly force on arrest

Bill supported unaminously in Parliament

Parliament has approved the Criminal Procedure Act Amendment Bill which will provide better rules on how deadly force may be used to carry out an arrest and guidelines on forcible arrests in general on schedule one crimes.

Currently, a hiatus exists because SAPS has difficulty in interpreting the section of law dealing with arrests of persons suspected of having committed murder, culpable homicide and rape if a killing should take place if the persons could not be arrested or prevented from fleeing in any other way.

The new Bill draws on a Constitutional Court guideline to the effect that the law recognises that force must always be reasonably necessary and proportional in the circumstances, and deadly force, including shooting, may in addition be used only if the suspect poses a threat of serious violence to the arrester or another person or persons; or if the suspect is reasonably suspected of having committed a crime involving serious bodily harm, and there are no other reasonable means of arresting him at that time or later.

This means that the killing, usually shooting, of a suspect in order to carry out an arrest is acceptable in a court of law under very limited circumstances but such limitations do not detract from an arrester’s rights to kill a suspect in self-defence or in defence of another person.   The bill was supported unanimously, the cabinet having earlier called for an urgent attempt to give SAPS clarity on their position.

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