ARRESTS WITHOUT WARRANT: THE SCA BRINGS CLARITY Minister of Safety and Security v Sekhoto 2011 1 SACR 315 (SCA); [2011] 2 All SA 157 (SCA)

Authors

  • Pieter du Toit

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.17159/obiter.v32i2.12270

Keywords:

lawfulness, arrests without warrant

Abstract

Section 40(1) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 provides for a number of different instances where a peace officer may effect an arrest without an arrest warrant. A perusal of the reported case law pertaining to the lawfulness of arrests without warrant reveals that section 40(1)(b) of the Act, in particular, has received much attention from the courts. In terms of this subsection a peace officer may arrest without warrant any person whom he reasonably suspects of having committed an offence referred to in Schedule 1, other than the offence of escaping from lawful custody. It is settled law that any deprivation of freedom is regarded as prima facie unlawful. The arrestor therefore bears the onus of proving that the arrest was justified. The following jurisdictional facts must be present for a peace officer to rely on the defence created by section 40(1)(b) of the Criminal Procedure Act in cases, where it is alleged that the arrest was unlawful: (i) the arrestor must be a peace officer; (ii) the arrestor must entertain a suspicion; (iii) the suspicion must be that the suspect committed an offence in Schedule 1; and (iv) the suspicion must rest on reasonable grounds. For a discussion of the different
types of jurisdictional facts provided for in section 40(1) see Watney. In Louw v Minister of Safety and Security Bertelsman J held, with reference to the right to personal liberty, that arresting officers are under a constitutional obligation to consider whether there are no less invasive options to bring the suspect to court than the drastic measure of arrest, thereby effectively requiring a further jurisdictional fact for successful reliance by a peace officer on the provisions of section 40(1). If a reasonable apprehension exists that the suspect will abscond, or fail to appear in court if a warrant is first obtained for his or her arrest, or a
written notice or summons to appear in court is obtained, then the arrest would be constitutionally untenable and unlawful. Bertelsman J relied on academic opinion and an obiter remark made by De Vos J in Ralekwa v Minister of Safety and Security and held that the approach in Tsose v Minister of Justice that there is no rule that requires the milder method of bringing a person to court if it would be as effective as arrest, could no longer be acceptable in a constitutional dispensation. This approach was followed in a number of reported High Court judgments but not approved of in Charles v Minister of Safety and Security. In Minister of Safety and Security v Van Niekerk the Constitutional Court found it not to be in the interests of justice on the facts of the case before it to pronounce on the constitutional tenability of the approach in Tsose, but nevertheless held that the constitutionality of an arrest will be dependent upon its factual circumstances. Watney succinctly discusses some of the abovementioned developments. However, on 19 November 2010 the Supreme Court of Appeal in Minister of Safety and Security v Sekhoto (2011 1 SACR 315 (SCA), also reported in [2011] 2 All SA 157 (SCA)) held that the approach of the different high courts requiring a further jurisdictional fact for the lawfulness of an arrest did not
have proper regard for the principles in terms of which statutes must be interpreted in the light of the Bill of Rights and that they have conflated the issue of jurisdictional facts with the issue of discretion. This lucid judgment brings clarity to the issue of the lawfulness of arrests without warrant. 

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Published

08-09-2021

How to Cite

Pieter du Toit. (2021). ARRESTS WITHOUT WARRANT: THE SCA BRINGS CLARITY Minister of Safety and Security v Sekhoto 2011 1 SACR 315 (SCA); [2011] 2 All SA 157 (SCA). Obiter, 32(2). https://doi.org/10.17159/obiter.v32i2.12270

Issue

Section

Cases