STATE LIABILITY VIS-À-VIS VICTIMS OF CRIME IN POST-1994 SOUTH AFRICAN CASE LAW – SOMETHING NEW OR A REINVENTED WHEEL?
Keywords:victims of crime, failure to protect, liability, law of delict, reasonableness, public policy, punitive or constitutional damages
Since 1994 South African courts have dealt with numerous cases where victims of crime have sued the State for its failure to protect them from criminal violation. This article explores these cases in order to ascertain the juristic nature of this liability and the criteria applied in ascertaining whether said liability exists under given circumstances. The author concludes that the legal remedy granted victims is based on the normal rules of the law of delict. Despite the constant reference by judges to constitutional imperatives, the matter is guided by the normal delictual criteria of reasonableness and public policy which, granted, have to be ascertained in deference to constitutional norms. The essential test has thus not changed since to the inception of the Constitution. Nevertheless, it appears that the courts have drawn fresh impetus from the Constitution in granting the claim of the victim of crime. South African courts have thus far shown opposition to the granting of punitive or constitutional damages to victims of crime though the possibility of the granting thereof in future has not been ruled out unequivocally.
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