South Africa’s criminal law system is based on common law and statutory law. Crimen injuria is a crime under South African common law, defined as the act of “unlawfully and intentionally impairing the dignity or privacy of another”.
The law of crimen injuria protects one’s constitutional right to human dignity and allows for criminal prosecutions.
The crime can be committed either verbally or by deed.
To lodge the claim, it must be clear that a person’s dignity was impaired.
- The victim must have been aware of what the accused was doing to them
- The victim must have been degraded or humiliated as a consequence of the actions by the accused
The court applies an objective test to determine whether a reasonable person in the same circumstances of the victim would have felt humiliated or degraded by the conduct of the accused.
Serious forms of crimen injuria include insulting someone based on their race, religion, ethnicity, age, disability or sexual orientation. Such conduct is serious enough to warrant criminal proceedings.
To pursue a crimen injuria claim the victim must lodge a complaint against the perpetrator with the authorities, such as a police station.
The Police will then investigate the allegation and if there is sufficient evidence a prosecutor will initiate criminal proceedings against the perpetrator.
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