Plea bargaining in South Africa and Germany

Kerscher, Martin (2013-03)

Thesis (LLM)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

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Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Plea bargaining describes the act of negotiating and concluding agreements in the criminal procedure. Usually the prosecutor and the accused agree that the accused will plead guilty to the charge brought against him in exchange for some concession from the prosecution. The bargain is not limited to the presented subject. Agreements can contain the non-prosecution or reduction of charges, specific terms of punishment, conditions of probation and much more. In many countries the vast majority of criminal cases are disposed by way of bargaining. Plea bargaining breaches with the concept of a conventional trial and consequently clashes with well-known fundamental principles of the criminal procedure. Moreover, bargaining before criminal trials strongly implicates the constitutionally secured rights of the accused as well as of the public interest. Although plea bargaining is broadly criticized for its implications on essential rules and principles, the use of the practice is widespread. There are clear benefits to the participant, such as to avoid a lengthy trial with an uncertain outcome. South Africa, as a legal system with roots in the common law, adopted the procedure in 2001 with the implementation of s 105A into the Criminal Procedure Act. The German legislature in 2009 decided to regulate what until then had been informal practice by inserting several rules into the German criminal procedure, amongst which s 257c contains the main provisions. The implementation of bargains into the German law has produced tensions particularly due to the inquisitorial basis of the criminal procedure that stands in civil law tradition. This thesis evaluates how South African and German provisions on plea bargaining differ, i.e., on which different backgrounds they are based on, how the bargain procedures are construed and to what extent statutory plea bargaining in both legal systems displaces informal traditional agreements. The comparison is enriching under the aspect that both countries implemented the bargain procedure but had to place them on fundamentally different grounds. Having presented the grounds that motivated the research (Chapter I.), the origins of plea bargaining in general as well as the legal development toward the present statutory provisions in both countries are examined (Chapter II.). The bargain procedures are compared in detail (Chapter IV.). A large part focuses on particular problem areas and how both legal systems cope with them (Chapter V.). The result of the research is summarized in a conclusion (Chapter VI.).

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Pleitonderhandeling kan beskryf word as die proses van onderhandel en die aangaan van ooreenkomste in die strafproses. Die vervolging en die verdediging sal gewoonlik ooreenkom dat die beskuldigde skuldig sal pleit in ruil vir een of meer toegewings deur die vervolging. Ooreenkomste kan insluit die nie-vervolging of vermindering van klagte, spesifieke aspekte van vonnis, voorwaardes van parool en talle meer. In ‘n hele aantal lande word die oorgrote meerderheid van sake afgehandel by wyse van pleitooreenkomste. Dit is egter duidelik dat pleitooreenkomste in konflik is met die konsep van ‘n gewone verhoor en is gevolglik ook in konflik met van die grondbeginsels van die strafprosesreg. Dit raak ook die grondwetlike regte van beskuldigdes en die belange van die samelewing. Ten spyte van hierdie kritiek en meer, is die praktyk van pleitonderhandeling wydverspreid. Daar blyk besliste voordeel te wees vir die deelnemende partye, byvoorbeeld die vermyding van lang verhore met onsekere beslissings. Suid-Afrika (met ‘n sterk gemeenregtelike tradisie) het die praktyk van pleitonderhandeling formeel en per statuut in 2001 aanvaar, met die aanvaarding en invoeging van artikel 105A in die Strafproseswet, 1977. Die wetgewer in Duitsland het in 2009 besluit om die informele praktyk van pleitonderhandeling te formaliseer met die invoeging van sekere bepalings in die Duitse strafproseskode. Hierdie invoeging het sekere spanning veroorsaak in die Duitse strafproses, veral weens die inkwisitoriese tradisie in daardie jurisdiksie. Hierdie tesis evalueer die Suid-Afrikaanse en Duitse benaderings tot pleitonderhandelinge, hoe dit verskil, die verskillende regskulturele kontekste waarbinne dit plaasvind, en die mate waartoe pleitonderhandeling in beide sisteme informele ooreenkomste vervang het. Die vergelykende ondersoek bevind dat beide stelsels die pleitooreenkoms ingestel het, maar dit moes doen mvn fundamenteel verskillende gronde. Hoofstuk I (die motivering vir die studie), word gevolg deur ‘n historiese ondersoek (Hoofstuk II). Die verdere hoofstukke fokus op die regsvergelykende aspekte en die gevolgtrekkings word in Hoofstuk VI uiteengesit.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/80257
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