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The Law Around Assault Charges in South Africa and Examples

- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA - June 2019

South African law does not make statutory provision for the crime of assault. Instead, it can be found in the common law of South Africa, meaning it is derived through the various rulings of courts, case and the influence of English Law. It is defined as “unlawfully and intentionally applying force to the person of another, or inspiring a belief that, that force is immediately to be applied to him”. Therefore a slap, pushing someone to the ground or any use of force to harm someone can be charged as assault under South African law.

But what about more serious cases of assault such as breaking someone’s bones or seriously impeding someone’s health? Well, this is defined is assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm and is far more serious offence than simple assault.

One may also talk about sexual assault (formerly indecent assault), although this is now clearly enshrined in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 2007, which provides a clear definition thereof and the legal ramifications for committing said crime.

In order for assault charges to apply, the complainant or person who was assaulted needs to lay a charge against the accused at the nearest police station to where the incident took place. The police officer on duty will listen to charge and assist the complainant with whether or not to lay a charge of common assault or assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Assault is seen as a schedule 7 offence and therefore police bail may not be granted, although prosecutor’s bail is still possible in these cases.

Interestingly, assault may also have civil law consequences as victims of assault are afforded the opportunity to claim for the damages they suffered in a civil court, even if a person is found not guilty in a criminal court. Therefore should you have been a victim of assault and the perpetrator was not found guilty, you may still pursue a civil lawsuit against them for a criminal injury claim.

If you require any assistance or advice regarding the crime of assault and various assault charges in South Africa, please do not hesitate to contact our service, and we will be to put you in touch with a criminal or civil attorney depending on your legal needs.

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