ConCourt rules common purpose must apply to rape: all accomplices equally liable
The Constitutional Court has ruled this week that the doctrine of common purpose should be applied to the crime of rape.
The judgment has implications for how gang rape cases will be dealt with by in law.
Common purpose is a legal principle that places equal liability on all criminal suspects, regardless of exactly who participated in which elements of the crime.
It has applied to crimes such as murder and assault, but for years, legal experts have been divided on whether the doctrine of common purpose should apply to rape.
Two men who were convicted of rape 20 years ago under the doctrine of common purpose had approached the ConCourt to appeal their convictions.
The duo was a part of a group of men that went on a rampage in Tembisa in the late 1990s.
Some of the men committed acts of rape while others were apparently posted outside to be on the lookout.
The Constitutional Court found, "the main object of the doctrine of common purpose is to criminalise collective criminal conduct and in the process address societal needs to combat crime committed in the course of joint enterprises.
"There is no reason why the doctrine should not apply to gang-rape under the common law", the judgment reads.
Judgment: The main object of the doctrine of common purpose is to criminalise collective criminal conduct and in the process address societal needs to combat crime committed in the course of joint enterprises. (1 of 2) pic.twitter.com/pGja45DzR2— Constitutional Court (@ConCourtSA) December 11, 2019
The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits University was a friend of the court in the matter.
Candidate Attorney at CALS, Vuyolwethu Mntonintshi, says the judgment found that it would be irrational not to apply the principle of common purpose to the crime of rape.
What we were looking at is: If common purpose applied to other crimes, why then can it not apply to rape?Vuyolwethu Mntonintshi, Candidate Attorney - Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) at Wits
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