Cabinet approves criminal procedure amendment bill

2010-09-16 10:53

Cape Town – Cabinet has approved a controversial law change that will give police limited power to use lethal force when apprehending suspects, government spokesperson Themba Maseko said.

The long-awaited amendment to section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act will be tabled in Parliament shortly, Maseko told reporters at a briefing on Cabinet’s regular fortnightly meeting yesterday.

He said today that it would bring the provision on the use of force by police when trying to arrest a suspect in line with the Constitutional Court judgment in the State v Walters case in 2002.

“The court stated, among other things, that shooting a suspect solely in order to carry out and arrest is permitted in very limited circumstances.

The bill strives to provide greater legal certainty regarding circumstances under which force may be applied when attempting to effect an arrest, and the nature of the force that may lawfully be used in the process.”

Maseko said it was currently being reviewed by state law advisors to make sure it would pass constitutional muster. This process should take about a week.

Academics have raised concerns that the law change could mark a return to the apartheid era, when the police routinely used excessive force with impunity.

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