Fine line between citizen arrests and vigilantism

Keith Blake, Ottery

An innocent citizen was murdered by a mob in Parkwood after rumours were uttered that the victim was a child kidnapper (“Fake news lead to Parkwood vigilante attack” – see page 1).

Those responsible for his death now face prison sentences.

What is not being stated at media briefings is that citizens can make a legal arrest in terms of section 42 of the Criminal Procedure Act without a warrant and without resorting to illegal acts of vigilantism. And section 49 allows for citizens to use legal force to subdue a suspect who is being arrested by citizens, but this force is to cease once the suspect resisting is subdued. Further force will amount to assault by the arresting citizens or worse murder or attempted murder.

It is extremely important for citizens who make a legal arrest to hand over the suspect to the police as quickly as possible.

The outcome of the police investigation must then be made known to the citizens.

The authorities must use all available channels to explain these sections of the Criminal Procedure Act if they want to prevent citizens from becoming criminals by taking the law into their own hands.

• Captain Wynita Kleinsmith, spokeswoman for Grassy Park police, says a citizen’s arrest can only be done for a Schedule 1 criminal offence committed in the citizen’s presence. Schedule 1 criminal offences include arson, fraud, forgery, sedition, public violence, murder, culpable homicide, robbery, kidnapping, abduction and sexual assault.