THE OFFENCE OF BEING FOUND IN DISGUISE IN SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES
Keywords:use of disguises, suspicious circumstances
The statutory criminal prohibition on the use of disguises in suspicious circumstances has a venerable history in South African law. A form of this offence can be found in the pre-Union legislation (as well as in s 9(2) of Proclamation 27 of 1920 and s 3(2) of Proclamation 5 of 1937 of the former South West Africa). It is noteworthy that there are very few reported cases dealing with the various forms of this offence. Nevertheless it is evident that the offence serves an important function. In its review of various statutes relating to justice, the South African Law Reform Commission comments, in respect of the current formulation of this offence found in section 1 of the Prohibition of Disguises Act (16 of 1969), that “it enables police officers to approach persons in suspicious circumstances, which could prevent crime occurring, for example, masked persons outside a bank”, and consequently it is recommended by the SALRC that the offence should therefore be retained.
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