29 August A man was mugged and robbed of two backpacks and his cell phone at 15:00 by two men while at the Doringkloof Spruit bird hide. The counter to the type of crime is for as many of us residents as possible to walk through the spruit area, taking our dogs (preferably on a leash) with us. The physical presence of lots of people deters criminals. At the same time, you can see nature awakening after winter.
05 September Two men tried to lift a gate in Sonja Street. Members of the DNW apprehended them and after a stern warning released. (Note: The nature of the act was such that it would have been rejected by a court as a criminal act. It was, therefore, impractical to process them further and hand them over to the SAPS. At the same time, any physical or verbal abuse of the suspects by the DNW members could have resulted in a charge being laid by the suspects at the police station. We might not agree with this but that is how the law works and without this, we would see a free-for-all situation leading to utter chaos.)
In our on-going crime prevention activities, it might be prudent to look back at some of the lessons learned in the past. During 2008 a group of DNW members consulted with an attorney to determine our legal position as a neighbourhood watch in combating crime. Some of the legal issues raised by the attorney are applicable to all residents, whether you are a member of the DNW or not. Knowledge of these laws might just save you from joining a suspect in the holding cells at the police station.
The first issue we would like to bring to your attention is the use of force and firearms. Many of us have a firearm for personal protection and there is no argument about that. But it is how you use the firearm that may cause you to be in conflict with the law.
Without printing the whole of Act regarding firearms and their use, here is a summary that may be easier to understand:
It is an offence to cause bodily injury to any person or cause damage to property of any person by negligently using a firearm; discharge or otherwise handle a firearm in a manner likely to injure or endanger the safety or property of any person or with reckless disregard for the safety or property of any person, or have control of a loaded firearm in circumstances where it creates a risk to the safety or property of any person and not to take reasonable precautions to avoid the danger.
A firearm may not be discharged in a built-up area or any public place, without good reason to do so. If the suspect runs away having escaped after being arrested, and the use of a firearm is the only means to stop him, this would constitute a ‘good reason. However, there must be reasonable grounds that the suspect has/is/was committing an offence and was fleeing the scene. A warning before firing is imperative. Warning shots into the ground away from any person is permitted but not into the air. (Note: The criminal act referred to here must be a serious offence, such as a robbery, high jacking or where a person’s life has been seriously threatened. Shooting at a fleeing wall jumper after you shouted at him will not go down easily with both the SAPS or the magistrate).
A person may not fire a firearm when under the influence. This may be something to remember when confronting a criminal who may state that he was fired on by a person under the influence, i.e. he could smell alcohol on his breath and he appeared unsteady on his feet or his eyes were bloodshot.
Remember; it is a Judge or magistrate who will decide whether the injury or death suffered by a suspect from a gunshot you fired was within the law or not. The SAPS are obliged to bring you before a Magistrate if death occurred. He or she will then decide upon the case. Our advice is, therefore, to think through what you will do with your gun, long before you are confronted by a suspect.