South African Government

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How does the criminal justice system work?

The South African Criminal Justice System has six main parts.

  1. The police (the South African Police Service or SAPS) prevent crime, investigate crime, and catch suspected criminals.
  2. The prosecution service (officially know as the National Prosecuting Authority) decide whether or not to prosecute someone who is suspected of having committed a crime.
  3. The presiding officer, who is the magistrate or judge who hears the case, and the judiciary (the courts) decide if the accused is innocent or guilty after having heard evidence. They also decide what sentence should be given if someone is guilty.
  4. The Department of Justice provides accessible and quality justice for all. .
  5. The prison system, run by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), makes sure that sentences are carried out. They also try to rehabilitate the convicted criminals in their care.
  6. Probation officer/social worker provide social services for the poor and vulnerable people. They work with victims of crime, families and communities. Probation officers are appointed by the Minister of Social Development, and are officers of every magistrate's court.

More information on the criminal justice system, including how the process from an arrest to appearing in the court works, witness protection and crime prevention tips are provided in a brochure compiled by the National Prosecuting Authority.