A recent ruling by the Krugersdorp Regional Court in the
"Sunday rapist" case suggests that change may be on the
horizon with respect to the disclosure of the identities of
individuals charged with sexual offences before they appear in
Section 154(2)(b) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977
"No person shall at any stage before the appearance of
an accused in a court upon any charge referred to in section 153(3) [indecency or extortion] or at
any stage after such appearance but before the accused has pleaded
to the charge, publish in any manner whatever any information
relating to the charge in question."
The above provision essentially ensures that no details as to the
identity of an accused in a crime involving a sexual offence will
be published before the accused has pleaded to the charge in
However, the Krugersdorp Regional Court recently ruled that the
media can publish pictures of the person who is alleged to be the
"Sunday rapist", Johannes Jacobus Steyn, even though he
has not yet pleaded. On 1 February 2012, Magistrate Keith Page
reportedly ruled that the taking of photographs during the court
proceedings will be prohibited, but it will not be prejudicial to
Steyn for the press to take pictures before or after the court case
and to publish those pictures.
The ruling by Magistrate Page suggests that courts may be becoming
more aware of the unduly restrictive nature of section 154(2)(b) of
the Criminal Procedure Act, due to the restrictive effect it has on
freedom of expression and crime reporting. The team will be closely
monitoring any further developments in this area of the law, which
is ripe for reform.
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