This article sets out the major developments relating to Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act, the law relating to the use of lethal force for arrest, since 1994. It focuses on three key questions relevant to understanding provisions on the use of lethal force for arrest. Firstly the types of offences or situations in relation to which the use of lethal force for purpose of arrest may be justified. Secondly is it acceptable for the power to use lethal force for arrest to be available to the public or should it be restricted to the police? Thirdly, considering the risk of error, what is an appropriate standard of belief for the use of lethal force to be justified, considering its potentially irreversible fatal consequences.
David Bruce is a Johannesburg-based independent researcher and writer working in the fields of policing, crime and criminal justice. He obtained his Master's Degree Public and Development Management and Bachelor's Degree Bachelor of Arts with majors in Legal Theory and Industrial Sociology from The University of the Witwatersrand.