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Third parties can lay assault charges, with condition

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A third party is legally entitled to lay an assault charge on behalf of a victim, depending on the circumstances and context. That’s according to criminal law expert James Grant, as he unpacked the legalities around the Domestic Violence Act.

Grant was responding to the public outcry around the alleged assault of popular South African singer and dancer Babes Wodumo, by her partner and record producer Mampintsha.

The alleged abuse was recorded live in an Instagram video on Sunday night. Questions have arisen on social media as to whether a third party could lay a charge against Mampintsha, in the event that Babes Wodumo decides not to.  Many gender activists and counsellors at women’s shelters believe that abused women often decline to press charges, as they are afraid of their partners and for reasons related to their family, emotional, or economic situation, choose to stay in the abusive relationship.

Advocate Grant responded to the topic by saying that “it is theoretically possible and the reason for that is, a criminal offence is an offence against everyone in society”.

“At a theoretical level everyone in society is entitled to bring to the attention a criminal or a suspected criminal offence and police ought to investigate,” he said.

“But at a practical level, they (the police) do not take complaints from anybody, so you have to at the very least, be a witness.”

When elaborating on the issue of what constitutes a witness, Grant continued by saying that a witness need not necessarily be a direct eye-witness, but that one could be an “ear-witness” – who have perhaps heard the argument or screams of the two individuals.

Additionally, the advocate stated that “you are also able to report that after this (the incident), you notice that the woman or man has a blackened eye the next day”.

“In the instance of a video, virtually everyone who sees a video is able to – in a sense – claim to be a witness” and that video evidence as well as audio evidence are always very “powerful” and “valuable”.

According to Grant, a fact that is not well known to the public and that he wished to communicate is that, “in recording audio or video of a transaction or conversation that you are party to, or simply a meeting that you are party to, you do not have to give the other person notice of the fact”.

Grant went further to add that the only requirement is that you have to be a party to that conversation or interaction as then you’re entitled to record it.

VOC / Anees Teladia

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