Essay On Ignorance Of Law

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1. Introduction: South Africa follows a rule regarding ignorance whereby genuine ignorance of the law may be used as an excuse. Some would say that be allowing ignorance as a defence we are creating a system whereby our judicial system is lenient, liberal and “criminal-friendly”. This essay serves as a space to critically analyse this statement and provide case law, academic opinion and legal principals to support the argument offered. Ignorance of the law forms part of the element of unlawfulness. If a person is said to have no subjective knowledge or does not foresee that their actions could be prohibited by law then it would be unfair to blame said person for directing their will towards committing the prohibited act as they did not know their conduct was prohibited at the time. “If the accused genuinely does not know, or does not foresee the possibility, of the unlawfulness of his conduct then he/she cannot be held to have the required guilty mind in the form of intention. Thus in the South African criminal law, genuine ignorance of the law may be an excuse” (Van der Merwe and Du Plessis, 464). Our law is very clear in that one cannot rely on the defence of ignorance unless their ignorance is bona fida, genuine. It is not necessary for an accused…show more content…
In the De Blom case judge Rumpff made a statement that requires further explanation in order to be made clearer. He stated along the lines of a situation where somebody who had a chosen profession was expected to know the law relating to that particular profession. If such a person was not aware of the law in terms of the sphere in which they worked that person could be said to be negligent and charged
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