The police service has issued a stern warning about circulating photos of alleged suspects on social media prior to court appearances. People who post these photos may be fined or imprisoned for 12 months.
Photos are often posted on Facebook and WhatApp groups of alleged criminals and the police are warning social media users that this can jeopardise investigations and possibly lead to failure to prosecute the suspect.
“The SAPS have in the past issued several advisories, cautioning members of the public, particularly social media users, against the dangers of circulating images of alleged suspects prior to those suspects being charged and making an appearance in court. Due to this reckless practice that achieves nothing other than sensationalism, the hard work of investigators gets nullified as this ultimately compromises procedures such as identification (ID) parades and subsequent court proceedings,” said police spokesperson, Brigadier Mathapelo Peters.
Section 69 of the South African Police Service Act of 1995 states that, “no person may, without the written permission of the National or Provincial Commissioner, publish a photograph or sketch of a person who is suspected of having committed an offence, pending a decision to institute criminal proceedings against him or her” and, any person who publishes such a photograph or sketch “shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months.”
“We do therefore appeal once more, for social media users to consider the victims of crime and the negative implications their posted content could have on the process of ensuring justice for the victims,” said Gauteng Police Commissioner, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela.