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Probation

The chances are that most people reading this have, intentionally, driven through a red traffic light at some stage or another. So, there you are, you committed an offence. But does that necessarily deserve time in prison?

The criminal justice system recognises that the ‘punishment’ for a criminal offence does not always need to be, well, punishment. There are myriad factors which come into play in deciding on the sentence for a particular crime – and for a particular criminal. Perhaps any of the following: rehabilitation, community service, and restorative justice1 would be a more fitting way of society addressing the particular offender, his crime and his situation.

This is where probation services come into the picture. The Probation Services Act 19912 contemplates a wide range of programmes aimed at addressing, care, treatment, assistance, compensation, sheltering, intervention and many other features of the offender/society/victim paradigm. The Act is administered by the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services.

A. The probation officer

This is an officer of the Magistrates Court, appointed to supervise offenders. Their duties include an investigation of the circumstances of an accused person with a view to reporting to the court; assisting people ‘on probation’ in complying with their conditions of probation; recruitment of volunteers, and so forth.3

  1. Anyone who opposes, hinders or obstructs a probation officer in the exercise of his powers or the performance of his duties or functions commits an offence.4

B. Volunteers

These are people, appointed by probation officers, to assist in the implementation of the programmes referred to above.5 They receive remuneration and compensation for expenses.

  1. Any person who falsely pretends to be a volunteer in terms of the Act commits an offence.6

  2. A volunteer who makes a false statement in connection with an expenses claim commits an offence.7

  3. It is a crime to oppose, hinder or obstruct a volunteer in the exercise of his powers or the performance of his functions or duties.8

  1. The promotion of reconciliation, restitution and responsibility and responsibility involving all concerned, particularly in the case of child offenders and so forth. 

  2. As amended; the latest amendments are effected by Act 75 of 2008. 

  3. See section 4 of the Act. 

  4. Section 4(2). 

  5. See section 3 of the Act for the full range. 

  6. Section 12. 

  7. Section 14. 

  8. Section 4(2).