In a unanimous judgment, the court declined to confirm a Western Cape High Court order of constitutional invalidity of a section of the Criminal Procedure Act.
The Constitutional Court held that robbery with aggravating circumstances was not a crime separate from robbery.
Earlier, the high court held that part of section 1(1)(b) of the act was constitutionally invalid.
A magistrate’s court had convicted two people, one who acted as a scout and one who was the driver of the getaway vehicle, of participating in a robbery with aggravating circumstances.
Their two accomplices held up a shop owner with a knife. On appeal, the high court held that the prosecution had not proven that the two had foreseen the use of the knife, which constituted the aggravating circumstances.
The high court reasoned that the phrase “or an accomplice” in section 1(1)(b) of the act meant that an accomplice to robbery with aggravating circumstances was guilty of robbery with aggravating circumstances even without foresight of those circumstances.
This effect unjustifiably limited the right not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause under section 12 of the Constitution and the right to be presumed innocent under section 35.
The high court therefore declared the words “or an accomplice” in section 1(1)(b) of the act unconstitutional and postponed the appeal pending confirmation proceedings in the Constitutional Court.
On Thursday, the Constitutional Court upheld the appeal against the high court ruling by the minister of justice and the national director of public prosecutions.
The Constitutional Court remitted the matter to the high court for the finalisation of the two accused’s appeal.