Right of Victims

-compiled by Michelle Bellion ( 2010)

(source Department of Justice Handbook for Victims of crime)

To provide for the consolidation of the present legal framework in South Africa relating to the rights of and services provided to victims of crime and to:

  • Eliminate secondary victimisation in the criminal justice process;
  • Ensure that victims remain central to the criminal justice process;
  • Clarify the service standards that can be expected by and are to be according to victims whenever they come into contact with the criminal justice system; and Make provision for victims’ recourse when standards are not met.

YOUR RIGHTS AS A VICTIM OF CRIME

If you have been a victim of crime the following rights, as contained in the Constitution and relevant legislation, will be upheld in your contract with the criminal justice system:

1. The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for dignity and privacy:

o You have the right to be attended to promptly and courteously, treated with respect for your dignity and privacy by all members of any department, institution, agency or organization dealing with or providing a service to you (hereinafter referred to as a service provider).

o The police, during investigations, the prosecutors and court officials during preparation for and during the trial proceedings; as well as all other service providers, will take measures to minimize any inconvenience to you by, among others, conducting interviews with you in your language of choice and in private, if necessary.

o These measures will prevent you from being subjected to secondary victimization.

2. The right to offer information

o You have the right to offer information during the criminal investigation and trial.

o The police, prosecutor and correctional services official will take measures to ensure that any contribution that you wish to make to the investigation, prosecution and parole hearing is heard and considered when deciding on whether to proceed with the investigation, or in the course of the prosecution of Parole Board hearing.

o It means that you will have the opportunity to make a further statement to the police if you realise that your first statement is incomplete, you may also, where appropriate, make a statement to the court or give evidence during the sentencing proceeding to bring the impact of the crime to the court’s attention.

o Furthermore, you may make a written statement application to the Chairperson of the Parole Board to attend to the parole hearing and submit written input.

3. The right to receive information

o You have the right to be informed of your rights and of how to exercise them.

o You can, as part of this right, ask for explanations in your own language of anything you do not understand.

o You have the right to receive information and to be informed of all relevant services available to you by the service providers.

o You will be informed of your role in the case and of the approximate duration of the case. You can request information regarding court dates, witness fees and the witness protection programme.

o You can request to be informed of the status of the case, whether or not the offender has been arrested, charged, granted bail, indicted, convicted, or sentenced.

o You may request reasons for a decision that has been taken in your case on whether to prosecute of not.

o You are entitled to receive documents that the law entitles you to have access to.

o You can request to receive notification of proceedings which you may attend.

o You can request the prosecutor to notify you employer of any proceedings which necessitate your absence from work.

4. The right to protection:

o You have the right to be free from intimidation, harassment, fear, tampering, bribery, corruption and abuse. If you are a witness, you must report any such threats to the police or senior state prosecutor.

o The police will, if you comply with certain requirements, apply for you to be placed in a witness protection programme.

o If such an application is successful, you will be placed in a witness protection programme where you will be protected, as far as possible, from all forms of undue influence, harassment or intimidation.

o This will ensure your safety as a witness and the availability of your testimony, and prevent you from withdrawing from giving evidence as a result of undue influence.

o This right includes that in certain circumstances the court may prohibit the publication of any information (including your identity), or it may order that the trial be held behind closed doors (in camera).

o You can request Correctional Services to inform you if the offender has escaped or has been transferred.

5. The right to assistance:

o You have the right to request assistance and, where relevant have access to available social, health and counselling service, as well as legal assistance which is responsive to your needs.

o The police will assist you by explaining police procedures, informing you of your rights and making the appropriate referral to other relevant services providers.

o The office manager or head of department at the court will provide for the services of an interpreter.

o The prosecutor will ensure that special measures are employed in relation to sexual offences, domestic violence and child support or maintenance matters and that, where available, such cases are heard in specialised courts.

o If you have special needs, all service providers will, within the scope of their functions, take all reasonable steps to accommodate you and ensure you are treated in a sensitive manner.

6. The right to compensation (receiving finances):

o You have the right to compensation for loss of or damage to property suffered as a result of a crime being committed against you.

o You can request to be present at court on the date of sentencing of the accused and request the prosecutor to apply to court for a compensation order in terms of section 297 and 300 of the Criminal Procedure Act, Act 51 of 1977.

o “Compensation” refers to an amount of money that a criminal court awards the victim who has suffered loss or damage to property, including money, as a result of a criminal act or omission by the person convicted committing the crime.

o The prosecutor will inform you if a compensation order has been granted, explain its contents and how to enforce it. You can institute a civil action against the accused where the criminal court did not grant a compensation order. This will usually happen where the damages are not easily quantifiable in financial terms, for example, in the case of psychological damages or pain and suffering.

7. The right to restitution (to replace or restore):

o You have the right to restitution in cases where you have been unlawfully disposed of goods and property, or where your goods or property have been damaged unlawfully.

o “Restitution” refers to cases where the court, after conviction, orders the accused to give back to you the property or goods that have been taken from you unlawfully, or to repair the property or goods that have been unlawfully damaged, in order to restore the position you were in prior to the commission of the offence.

o The prosecutor will inform you what restitution involves and the clerk of the court will assist you in enforcing this right.

COMPLAINTS

Keeping in mind that you have the right to complain, you can contact the particular government department or service provider if you have any complaints with regard to the service you are receiving, or if your rights are not being observed. If you are not satisfied with the way in which your complaint is handled, you can also contact organisations such as:

a. The Office of the Public Protector

b. The South African Human Rights Commission

c. The Commission on Gender Equality

d. The Independent Complaints Directorate

e. Metropolitan Police Offices

f. The Health Professions Council of South Africa

g. A lawyer of your own choice and at your own expense

For more information on any issue contained in this Charter you can contact the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s Gender Directorate at the following numbers:

Tel: 012 315 1670

Tel: 012 315 1296

Fax: 012 315 1960

As well as Court Services Support Directorate at the following numbers:

Tel: 012 315 1830 Email: victimcharter@justice.gov.za

Tel: 012 315 1378 Website: http//:www.doj.gov.za

Fax: 012 315 1851

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