Menu

Common Law Offences1

Abduction
Taking an unmarried minor out of the control of his or her custodian with the intention of enabling someone to marry or have sexual intercourse with that minor.
Arson
Setting fire to an immovable property belonging to another.
Assault
  • applying force to the person of another;
  • inspiring a belief in another person that force is immediately to be applied to him or her;
  • assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Bigamy
Entering into what purports to be a lawful marriage ceremony with one person while lawfully married to another.
Blasphemy
The publication of words or conduct whereby God is slandered. Given that the Constitution recognises God as supreme,2 this crime is surely still part of our law.
Compounding
This is agreeing, for reward, not to report a crime.
Contempt of court
Violating the dignity, repute or authority of a judicial body or a judicial officer in his judicial capacity; publishing information or comment, concerning a pending judicial proceeding which has the tendency to influence the outcome of the proceeding or to interfere with the administration of justice in that proceeding.
Criminal defamation
Is where publication of material injures the reputation of another person.
Crimen injuria
Impairing the dignity or privacy of another person.
Culpable homicide
Negligent killing of another human being.
Defamation
Publication of matter that impairs another person’s reputation.
Defeating or obstructing the course of justice
Engaging in conduct which defeats or obstructs the course or administration of justice.
Exposing an infant
Exposure and abandonment of an infant in such a place or in such circumstance that its death is likely to result.
Extortion
Taking from another some advantage by subjecting that person to pressure which induces him or her to submit.
Forgery and uttering
Making a false document, or passing off a false document to the prejudice of another.
Fraud
Making a misrepresentation which causes prejudice, or which is potentially prejudicial to another.
High treason
Any conduct by a person (owing allegiance to a state) with the intention of overthrowing the government. Coercing the government by violence, or violating, threatening or endangering the existence, independence or security of the Republic.
Housebreaking
Breaking into and entering a building or structure with the intention of committing some crime.
Kidnapping
Depriving a person of his or her freedom of movement. If such person is a child, depriving the custodians of their control over the child.
Malicious injury to property
Intentionally damaging the property of another.
Murder
Intentional killing of a human being.
Perjury
Making of a false statement in the course of a judicial proceeding by a person who has taken the oath, or made an affirmation, or has been admonished.
Poisoning
Administering poison or other harmful substance to another.
Public indecency
Intentionally and publicly engaging in conduct which tends to deprave the morals of others, or which outrages the public’s sense of decency.
Public violence
Intentional commission (together with a number of people) of an act which assumes serious dimensions and which is intended forcibly to disturb public peace and tranquillity, or to invade the rights of others.
Receiving stolen property
Receiving possession of stolen property knowing it to have been stolen.
Robbery
Theft by using violence or threats of violence.
Sedition
Taking part in a concourse of people, violently or by threats of violence, challenging, defying or resisting the authority of the State.
Subornation
This is inducing another person to make a false statement under oath.
Theft
Appropriation of moveable corporeal property belonging to another, with intent to deprive the owner of the property.
Violating a corpse
Intentionally violating a corpse.
Violating a grave
Intentionally damaging a human grave.
  1. List taken from the following websites: www.sacan.co.za/breaking-news/144-common-law-offence-definitions; and www.lexisnexis.co.za/LAWSA. There may be more technically accurate descriptions of these offences, (see, for example, CR Snyman ‘Criminal Law’ 6th Ed. [Lexis Nexis] 2015) but the point gets across. Remember also: conspiracy, attempt and incitement, coperpetration, to be an accomplice and accessory after the fact in relation to a criminal deed are also offences. 

  2. May God protect our people … God bless South Africa … is what the Preamble records.