Why the media cannot yet reveal the identity of the Dros rapist

A play area at a Dros restaurant. File photo

A play area at a Dros restaurant. File photo

A number of users have changed their tune about the alleged rapist’s punishment after putting a face to the name.

The country has been in a collective state of disgust after hearing horrific details about a young man who stalked a little girl who was out at lunch with her mother, and followed the little girl into the restaurant’s toilet before allegedly raping her.

Various readers immediately took to social media to call for all sorts of harsh punishments for the then unidentified 20-year-old man after reading a witness account of the incident.

The man was detained on site and later arrested.

More disturbing details have emerged in the wake of the case. Earlier today, eNCA reported that a witness recalls seeing the suspect assault the girl’s mother with a belt after she apprehended him in the bathroom after the incident.

The suspect appeared in the Pretoria Regional Court on Tuesday on charges of rape, possession of drugs, intimidation and assault with the intention to do grievous bodily harm (GBH) and is currently in police custody until his next court appearance in October.

An unidentified social media user tracked down court documents and found the man’s name, which was then leaked on social media. We were unable to locate the original post but the information has since been duplicated and reposted at an exponential rate.

A number of news outlets then picked up the expose and shared the man’s identity.

The information sparked discussion on social media, with many naming and shaming the man currently believed to be the suspect. Some users claim that many changed their tune upon finding out the alleged rapist’s race.

A number of social media users have accused the media of protecting the rapist by not revealing his identity but this is not the case. It is simply illegal to name and shame the suspect at this stage.

According to Section 154 (2B) of the Criminal Procedure Act:

(b) No person shall at any stage before the appearance of an accused in a court upon any charge referred to in section 153(3) or at any stage after such appearance but before the accused has pleaded to the charge, publish in any manner whatever any information relating to the charge in question.

Section 153(3) says:

(3) In criminal proceedings relating to a charge that the accused committed or attempted to commit- (a) any sexual offence as contemplated in section 1 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007, towards or in connection with any other person; (b) any act for the purpose of furthering the commission of a sexual offence as contemplated in section 1 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007, towards or in connection with any other person; or (c) extortion or any statutory offence of demanding from any other person some advantage which was not due and, by inspiring fear in the mind of such other person, compelling him to render such advantage.

In cases of rape, the identity of the suspect cannot be revealed until they have pleaded in open court. “This usually only happens at the commencement of a criminal trial,” reports eNCA.

These laws are also in place as a way to protect the identity of the rape survivor or the accuser in cases of sexual assault.

As it stands, the Dros case has been postponed until 2 October pending further investigation, so the suspect has not yet gotten the chance to plead to the charges.

According to legal adviser and journalist Helene Eloff, “the Press Code and the law limits the press’ right to freedom of expression. Journalists may generally not incriminate any person without having obtained their comment on the allegations against them. This is prescribed by the audi alteram partem rule, which holds that all sides to a story must be sought and included before a story is published.”

There are also laws governing the publishing of information that may influence the outcome of an ongoing trial.

“Doing so amounts to contempt of court. If information is published prior to a trial commencing, the publisher may be accused of obstructing justice. These are criminal offences, and may result in the journalist responsible being jailed,” stated Eloff.

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