SVS Timeline

Criminal Case Timeline

Incident to Arrest
A 72 hour response plan is our goal.

During this time the Specialised Victim Support (SVS) platform and all processes are activated. These include SAPS, the Hawks, Crime Intelligence, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Violent Crimes and Technology Support (VCAT NPO), Together SA CAN NPO and the National SVS Community.

Arrest to Trial/Conviction
The process of the bail application, trial and conviction of the accused. Generally, if there is a guilty plea this takes an average of 90 days for all processes. If it goes to trial then this may take 12 to 36 months depending on the number of times the trial is adjourned.

Trial/Conviction to Parole
Life imprisonment terms in South Africa can be of varying length and may last for the remainder of the offender’s life.

It is a mandatory punishment for premeditated murder, gang rape, serial rape and rape where the rapist knew they were HIV positive or if the victim was under 18 and/or mentally disabled. In certain circumstances, robberies and hijackings (and aircraft hijacking) also carry a mandatory life sentence.

Section 51 of South Africa’s Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1997 prescribes the minimum sentences for other types of murders, rapes and robberies to 25, 15 and 10 years respectively, so parole is almost always granted to prisoners serving life sentences after the minimum sentence for the lesser crime has been served.

However, a prisoner must be given a parole hearing after having served 25 years.

In special cases, life imprisonment ‘without any possibility of parole or pardon’ for a long period of time (such as 1000 years) can be imposed, as seen in the case of serial killer Moses Sithole.

Parole to Reintegration
Victim families and interested/affected parties must be informed and allowed to participate.

I believe that this is the hardest part for families and affected parties. Rebuilding trust and true forgiveness is extremely difficult and of course there is every reason why some choose not to take part in it. In my humble opinion, it’s more about one’s own life journey and self-healing, and by extension your family and, in turn, the community, nation and world than about the offender. Hate, rage and anger are the most powerful human emotions and they can be totally destructive if uncontrolled and unchanneled. I hate priority crimes, but I forgive all those who I help to arrest within our line of work. Law must exercise a firm hand upon offenders, and humanity at large, through just and proper governmental action, must prevail and triumph over evil. Victims must be given every opportunity to heal, and those offenders who are truly remorseful a chance to make amends. Loved ones in death are to be cherished by our nation. I speak from a place of experience, hence the reason you are even reading this…

We must help to bring justice, healing and forgiveness to society. It’s what we teach our children and it’s what we should all be responsible for as a nation.

SVS – Life Timeline

This timeline commences at birth. In the eyes of the justice system a human life is a “priceless” contribution to society. To the family and friends, “priceless” consists of deep, connecting love, hopes, dreams, ambitions, and planning for future generations.

No matter your position on the timeline of life, each life has a purpose and fulfils an important role and responsibility in the family and friendship network.

When a life is suddenly taken by an incident, the impact is absolutely shattering, and is felt by all, including the community and country.

SVS will help us understand all aspects of each case, provide support and help to frame each element for better preparation of the Victim Impact Statements and the restorative justice process.

This also helps court processes as well as the entire family, friendship and community network structure over the course of the timeline from the incident to the close of the case, in most instances spanning 25 to 30 years.

The Journalistic Crime Reporting Timeline

Stage 0 – Life Timeline

  • Often no articles published unless the victim has some noteworthy event or experience that gains public attention.

Stage 1 – Incident     

  • Reporting on development in the case.
  • To provide public safety information.
  • To educate the public.
  • To build a support base in the nation for priority crimes and to ask for input from the community.
  • To provide behavioural information to the public about the offender as provided by the investigating officer as these behaviours and characteristics are likely to be of the most direct value in identifying and apprehending the unknown perpetrator/s.
  • To correct misinformation about the case.
  • To encourage anyone who may know the offender to come forward.
  • To develop a public communications strategy.
  • To let the public know that these media houses are intimately involved with the specialised victim support and form part of the liaison, independent monitoring of service delivery, capacity building of resources and needs, and partnering the victims and their families.
  • To switch off “comments” and to protect the victims, the country and to ensure that the killer/s do not feed off misinformation, fear, anger or accelerate the series of killings. Tip-offs or feedback could be enabled for those with useful information to provide insight and feedback directly.
  • To ensure journalistic crime reporting becomes a force multiplier and works hand in glove with Police Communications, Investigating Officer and the Specialised Victim Support processes. 
  • To remember that no matter what, our core principle is that we all we collectively for the victim, then the family, community and our nation.

Stage 2 – Arrest       

  • To ensure public awareness on the progress of the case, and the impact on victims.
  •  To ensure that the victim’s story does not become forgotten in the public.

Stage 3 – Trial

  • To cover the progress of bail applications and the success or failure thereof.
  • To cover the progression of the trial and keep the public informed of progress.
  • To ensure that the victim’s story does not become forgotten in the public.

Stage 4 – Conviction
Stage 4.1 – Conviction/Suspects Outstanding

  • To report on the convictions achieved, and illustrate how justice has been served (or not) for the victim.
  • To ensure that the victim’s story does not become forgotten in the public.

Stage 4.2 – Victim Impact Analysis

  • To shed light on the impact of the crime on the victim, or the victims surviving family
  • To ensure that the victim’s story does not become forgotten in the public.
  • To report on restorative justice processes in order that restorative justice is extended to the nation.
  • To help break the cycle of violence in our country

Stage 5 – Parole

  • To remind the public of the case, and inform them of parole conditions being met
  • To ensure that the victim’s story does not become forgotten in the public.

Stage 6 – Reintegration

  • We hope to see positive stories coming through from both the victim’s families and the perpetrators
    • Those victims families who have picked up the pieces and pulled together with amazing outcomes despite adversity
    • Those perpetrators who have spent much of their lives in prison due to their tragic personal choices that have rocked the nation, their story of prison and all they have done to reintegrate. 
    • For the public to see and understand the cycle of crime, the grip it has on an individual and how they have destroyed the lives of others as well as their own.    

Brian Jones (SA7)
Brian’s Passionate Desk