n Journal of Law, Society and Development - Search for and seizure of evidence in cyber environments : a law-enforcement dilemma in South African criminal procedure

Volume 1, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2313-8289



Investigating, deterring and imposing legal sanctions on cyber-criminals warrants an international legal framework for the investigation and prosecution of cybercrime. The real-world limits of local, state and national sovereignty and jurisdiction cannot be ignored by law-enforcement officials. It can be a strenuous task to obtain information from foreign countries, especially on an expedited basis - more specifically when the other country is in a different time zone, has a different legal system, does not have trained experts and uses different languages. In South Africa existing laws appear to be inadequate for policing the cyber realm. The effects and impact of information technology on the legal system have not yet received the attention they warrant. The challenges presented by the electronic realm cannot be solved merely by imposing existing criminal and criminal procedural laws which govern the physical world on cyberspace. The electronic realm does not necessarily demand new laws, but it does require that criminal actions be conceptualised differently and not from a purely traditional perspective. Sovereignty and the principle of noninterference in the domestic affairs of another state are fundamental principles grounding the relations between states; they constitute an important mechanism in the armoury of criminals. The harmonisation and enactment of adequate and appropriate transborder coercive procedural measures consequently play a pivotal role in facilitating effective international cooperation. This article examines the efficacy of South African laws in dealing with the challenges presented by police powers to search for and seize evidence in cyber environments. It analyses the rudimentary powers that exist in South African criminal procedure regarding the search for and seizure of evidence in cyber environments, and compares them against the backdrop of the more systemic and integrated approach proposed by the Cybercrime Convention.

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