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Section 49 Draft Bill

March 12, 2010

Dear Network Member,

“To Shoot, or Not to Shoot?”

That is the question that may become a little easier to answer – if the proposed changes to the rules concerning the use of ‘Deadly Force’ or ‘Shooting to Kill’ pass public and parliamentary muster. The recently published amendment proposals allow the SAPS more clarity and protection when making snap decisions during a “Stop or I’ll shoot” situation – i.e. while trying to arrest a suspect.

The changes, however, do not apply only to the use of firearms, or only to the use of force by the police, civilians will also be affected – either as an arrestor (as defined in Section 49), an innocent bystander, or (we hope not) as a suspect (as defined, innocent or not) – and we should understand the effects of changes to our rights and obligations.

The deadline for comments on the draft amendments to Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act as set out in the ‘Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill, 2010′ is 24 March 2010. The Bill, together with the (draft) explanatory ‘Memorandum on the Objects of the Bill’ is now available on our website home page at www.saga.org.za

Comments should be emailed to the Department of Justice’s Mr JA de Lange at: jdelange
There will be another chance to comment when the draft Bill becomes a ‘real’ Bill and goes to parliament.

That’s the short basic information you need to get involved.

WHY IS THE AMENDMENT CONTROVERSIAL AND IMPORTANT?

In the many highly charged, ‘tough-action’ statements by officials, and in media reports and opinion, a couple of Very Important Points are seldom discussed.

First, it is not only SAPS members who use force to arrest suspects; civilians frequently have to use force, sometimes deadly, most often not deadly, to arrest assailants or to stop violent attacks.

(As an aside, it seems to be police/ministerial policy NOT to acknowledge the thousands of lives saved, criminals stopped in their tracks, journeys undertaken, etc – simply because armed civilians have accepted the responsibility of owning a firearm to defend the lives and property of their family, friends, and neighbours.)

Second, although firearms may be the most commonly used means of applying deadly (or sufficient) force, they are not the only means.

Third, it is not only the SAPS who will need retraining, sorry ‘proper training’, on the issues involved. Even bystanders should know that if the police now more readily open fire, it could be better to take cover than to flee and give an edgy policeman the impression that you are an escaping ‘suspect’.

Fourth, although murder dockets are routinely opened against citizens who use deadly force, no new provisions seem to have been made to strengthen the powers and effectiveness of ICD (Internal Complaints Directorate) investigations and recommendations concerning police shootings.

The amendment (to an amendment which was then controversial) is again controversial because some say it will make it ‘too easy’ for the police to use (unnecessarily) deadly force against (possibly innocent) citizens or those whose crimes do not warrant a ‘split-second, death penalty’. Others believe that the amendment does not sufficiently enable the police to protect themselves against callous criminals who have no compunction about taking human life.

While SAGA recommends that citizens refrain from attempting to make arrests, (as distinct from defending yourself against unlawful violent attack), we know that this is not always an option – for this reason it is imperative that you make an effort to understand the possibilities – particularly if the police arrive on the scene while you are ‘threatening a suspect/arrestee with a gun in your hand’.

This understanding could save you an all-important split-second when faced with a ‘shoot, no shoot’ decision.

SAGA will be commenting throughout the process of turning the proposals into law – and will thereafter press for proper training and proper implementation of the amendments.

Issued in the interests of public safety and the protection of your rights by: The SA Gunowners’ Association (SAGA)

Issued: Friday, 12 March 2010 at 09:30


Issued by: The SAGA Office tel +27 31 5629951 fax: +27 31 5620530
For Legal requirements our physical address is given – NOT for mail
Tandjo Centre, 4 Joseph Ave, Glen Anil, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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