Posting suspects on social media will result in victims not getting justice, warns police
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Pretoria - Gauteng Police said on Thursday that they were disturbed by the wide circulation, mostly on Twitter, of photographs and videos of suspects before they appear in court.
Spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said circulating images of the accused persons before court appearances was not only a criminal act, but also reckless.
She said doing so compromises police investigations and critical procedures such as identification parades, ultimately jeopardising the cases.
“Police have observed with concern the recent circulation, mostly on Twitter, of a photo and a video clip depicting someone that is handcuffed, with whoever posted the material suggesting that the man is a suspect wanted by police for multiple rape cases in Ekurhuleni,” said Peters.
The SAPS in Gauteng have in the past issued several advisories, cautioning members of the public, particularly social media users, against the dangers of circulating images of 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 parades and subsequent court proceedings.
“This practice inevitably favours the suspect in that the case gets jeopardised and the suspects might never face a day in court, while the actual victim of crime is disadvantaged and deprived of finding justice.”
She emphasised that 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".
Gauteng police chief Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela appealed to social media users to consider the plight of the victims of crime before sharing images.
"We acknowledge that police have little control over the content posted by social media users on their private accounts. 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 Mawela.
The provincial police commissioner condemned the latest circulation of material depicting an alleged serial rapist that was never confirmed by the SAPS.