Intervening in a fight as a bystander

In order to help you stay safe this festive season, we talked to Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone who is the head of Corporate Communication and Media Liaison in the SAPS, North West. We conversed about whether bystanders have the right to intervene when they see a fight.

December is the busiest month of the year whereby crime is on the rise. Some of us have witnessed a fight and did not know how or whether to jump in. The SAPS encourages people that if they see that coming between a fight is going to endanger their lives, they should rather call they police instead of stepping in.

Should the scene end in murder, you are actually considered a witness. One of the challenges that the SAPS is encountering is that witnesses don’t usually want to come forward. Most of the time this is because of fear of being implicated. Mokgwabone reminds us that the law recognises everyone`s role in the scene and deals with the aftermath accordingly.

“If you are trying to separate people who are fighting and then someone dies, there is no way we can say you are guilty because you were only trying to assist”, advised Mokgwabone. “Unless if you had a hand in terms of killing the person. For example, maybe in the process you end up taking a firearm and shooting one of these people. Then you will be responsible for this particular incident”, he added.

Sometimes it happens that unintentional murder can occur through this intervening. Mokgwabone enlightens us that at the end of the day, where life is lost, somebody will have to be held responsible. What is going to happen is that a case will be opened for investigation and it will be taken for persecution. They will decide based on the statements or evidence whether they are going to persecute.  Sometimes they will even decide whether you are charged with murder or culpable homicide.

“One can say that we want members of the community to assist us in the fight against crime. We also don’t want them to endanger their lives”, said Mokgwabone. “Whatever they do they must make sure that they do it within the spectrum of the law”, he added.