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Durban - The sharing of videos and pictures depicting crime could be a double-edged sword, said legal experts, who felt these could weaken court cases.

This comes in the wake of a video of a four-year-old child being abused by a Phoenix mother that recently went viral on social media networks.

There has been strong public reaction to the video, with community members allegedly burning the vehicle of the woman’s boyfriend, who allegedly filmed the child being abused.

The 25-year-old mother and 20-year-old boyfriend, who cannot be named to protect the child’s identity, appeared in the Verulam Magistrate’s Court initially on a charge of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, but this was later changed to attempted murder.

Criminologist Shaka Yesufu said the sharing of videos and information on social media had its pros and cons that depended on the case and context.

“It could weaken a good case,” Yesufu said.

Read: Abused 4-year-old child under 24-hour guard

Yesufu added that people should also be aware of fake news, because sometimes videos did not show the whole context.

Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, the national SAPS spokesperson, said videos of criminal acts should be brought straight to the police because the dissemination of any such video could end up sparking acts of vigilantism.

Naidoo added that if the case was that of children being sexually abused, the people disseminating it could be charged for distributing child pornography.

Professor Ann Skelton, from the Centre for Child Law, said there should be a law that made it compulsory for people who come across such information to hand over the video to police and not share it, to get a reaction out of friends.

She said videos were not always easily admissible as evidence because it would have to be proved that the video or picture was taken in the country.

“This would require witnesses,” she said.

She said the videos also posed a risk that they could be seen by the child victim who would be forced to relive the trauma of what they had gone through.

“The sharing of the video also deprived the child of her right to privacy, which was denied by the continuous sharing of the videos,” she said.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said in such cases the prosecution would ask the court to ban the publication of the identity of the victim and those involved in the matter.

Captain Nqobile Gwala, a provincial police spokesperson, said bail for the couple had been revoked because of the sensitive nature of case and they were supposed to hand themselves over to police.

She said the man had handed himself over and was in custody.

“The mother of the child still has to hand herself over,” Gwala said.

The couple are due back in court on April 11.

Daily News