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Three legal stories currently trending in the news

- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA - August 2018

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In today’s article we discuss three legal stories currently trending in the news.

  • Minor criminal offences can be expunged.
  • The Film and Publication Bill deals specifically with child pornography.
  • An advisory committee was appointed to investigate legal fees.

Securing meaningful employment or employment in general is no easy feat as it is. Now imagine having a minor criminal offence against your name that acts as a barrier every time you apply for a job. Difficult becomes impossible. Most employers do background checks on possible new employees, and while we like to think that understanding will be given to crimes committed decades ago, it is seldom the case.

So in light of this struggle concessions have been made in which minor offences can be expunged. This is good news for those who didn’t think an unsavoury act committed in their teens might haunt them for such a long time or affect their employment chances.

An application to have an offence expunged must be made to the Department of Justice and when approved, the conviction will be completely removed from the database of the Criminal Record Centre of the South African Police Service. That means that it will be like the offence never happened.

For your information, records can only be considered for expungement if the following applies:

  • The criminal record is a decade old or older.
  • It was a minor offence, like petty theft, shoplifting or crimes for which the punishment is no longer constitutional.
  • An individual has discovered that a criminal record exists against his/her name after having been told that paying a fine would not result in such a record.
  • Expungement is not applicable for serious crimes like murder, rape and other sexual offences, or violent crimes.

This is, no doubt, welcomed information for those who have been struggling with the above scenario.

Further, there has been a lot of concern focused around the Film and Publications Bill. People are concerned for their freedom of speech and freedom of expression. However, the Communications Deputy Minister has reached out and reassures that the bill deals specifically with child pornography. It is said that the way in which media is received has surpassed traditional channels, like DVD or cinema, and regulations have to be put in place to guard against digital channels and online streaming of child pornography.

Understandably; anyone can recognise that regulations are necessary to control crimes of this nature, but let’s hope the bill will not be misused to stifle our freedom of speech and expression.

Third on our list of hot topics is something most people might get excited about. An advisory committee was appointed to investigate and make recommendations on the fees charged by the legal profession.

Recommendations will be made based on the following:

  • Legal fees that arise from situations which are beyond the affordability of most people.
  • Legislative and other interventions so as to improve access to justice by members of the public.
  • The desirability to establish a mechanism to determine fees payable to legal practitioners, the composition of such a mechanism and the process it would follow to determine fees.
  • The desire to give clients the option to negotiate fees with senior legal practitioners, such as advocates.
  • The possibility to determine the total cost of matters before the commencement of the brief.
  • The use of contingency fee arrangements in the promotion of access to justice.

The official article can be viewed on, which also states that the process will take twenty-four months and in concluding its work, the committee will consider public interests, international best practice and the interest of the legal profession, among other dynamics.

There most certainly has been situation in which people let slide legal battles on account of the legal fees involved. While certain areas of the legal profession work to make legal assistance available to all, perhaps a useful mechanism in which legal assistance can be given more affordably will arise from this.

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Three Legal Stories Currently Trending in the News - Legal Information South Africa