oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - The right to legal representation, including effective assistance, for an accused in the criminal justice system of South Africa

Volume 37, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



South Africa has inherited the British adversarial system, which is party centred: lawyers for both the state and defence play a dominant role in the pursuit of procedural justice. The common law recognises as fundamental the right of the individual to legal advice and legal representation. It is also a fundamental principle of our law that an accused person is entitled to a fair trial. There is a practical and logical nexus between legal representation and a fair trial. The accused must be properly and promptly be informed of this right in order to be afforded a reasonable opportunity of securing it. The position on legal representation under the interim and final Constitutions is addressed. The entitlement of an accused person to legal representation at state expense where substantial injustice would otherwise result, as well as effective assistance by counsel, are important principles which are also discussed.

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