What do you expect when you go to the police station and open a case? You want action. You want them to catch the criminal who has harmed you and bring him to court. But people are opening cases of murder or rape and then hear nothing.
Why after you open a case with the cops it seems to go nowhere? The cops do a little investigating, dust for finger prints, give you a case number and then silence…
Cases can stay open for years with very little progress taking place. For years the police say they are “investigating” but people in the community don’t see any results.In a study of 517,000 case dockets taken from the cops just over 14% of them were sent for prosecution. That is just taking the case to court – the criminal could still be innocent or guilty. 14% is how many cases opened go to court. The NPA doesn’t prosecute 60% of cases and sends another 25% back to the police for them to do more investigating. The NPA only prosecutes cases it thinks it could win.
Listen to “Know Your Rights” on Thetha FM (100.6) where we help you understand the role of the SAPS and NPA in bringing your case to court and what challenges they might be facing.
Thetha FM is a partner of The Citizen Justice Network.
The show is part of the “Know Your Rights” series produced by CJN that enables listeners to easily understand and navigate aspects of the justice system that might not be clear. The aim is to create content that makes the law and the justice system accessible to South African citizens in order to empower them to know their rights and responsibilities.
Summary of the discussion:
Q: Who is the NPA?
A:They are The National Prosecuting Authority. They bring the matter to court after the police have done their investigation. They control if your case goes to court or not.
Q: Why would a case start being investigated in 2008 and then nothing?
A: The NPA only wants to take a case to court if they are going to win beyond “a reasonable doubt”. The Investigating Officer needs: evidence, a suspect, a weapon and a motive. For this – a crime has to have happened.
Q: How do the NPA and SAPS work together?
There is a constant back and forth between them as they collect the details of a case. Forensics take a long time. So, work might be happening between them that you’re not aware of.
Q: Why would the cops keep telling you that they’re investigating when nothing seems to be happening?
We don’t know if they’re doing nothing. They could be investigating and their work could be leading nowhere.
Q: What evidence is needed to move a case forward?
Depends on the case. A body. A witness. “Enough” evidence – and this depends on the case.
Q: Who makes the decision?
The prosecutor makes the decision to move the case forward. Not the cops. The cops do what the prosecutor says. If the prosecutor says no – then the case is closed.
Q: What is the role of the prosecutor? Where does he work? At what stage does he get involved?
You will see the prosecutor in court – he’s the guy with the gold bits on his robe.
Q: How long can a case stay open without anyone being arrested or prosecuted?
There is no limit.
Q: Could you take up your case privately?
Yes. But be prepared to spend a lot of money. The victim (who wants to prosecute) has to apply with the NPA for private prosecution. If you are not the direct victim and you want to prosecute (like a father or mother of a victim) you have to prove that you have “standing” (that you are affected).
Q: What if the investigating officer changes on a case?. What will happen to the case?
If the investigating officer changes then there’s a chance you’d need to start the case all over.
Q: Can you get reasons for why a prosecutor decided not to follow up your case?
You have the right to ask for reasons. There’s a form to fill in. If you need to find out if a decision has been made you can call the NPA.
The prosecutor has a lot of power, but he isn’t going to drop a case without any reasons.