n South African Journal of Criminal Justice - General principles and specific crimes : recent cases

Volume 22, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1011-8527
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2118



The approach that the application of the principle is rather a decision of the court to acquit on the ground of triviality than a finding of justification excluding the unlawfulness of conduct is well illustrated by the facts in 2009 (2) SACR 70 (W). A mechanic and a customer had become involved in a verbal altercation concerning repairs to the latter's car. After a barrage of verbal abuse by the customer directed at the mechanic, including threats to assault him, the mechanic, who was 'totally humiliated' and 'very angry' invited the customer, in somewhat cruder terms, to go ahead and execute his threats. The customer then went ahead and pushed the mechanic away but, unexpectedly, he (the mechanic) tripped over a low bed lift and fractured his right wrist. The customer was charged with assault and convicted. In the subsequent appeal against conviction, the court made an in-depth inquiry into judicial pronouncements involving relatively trivial assaults.

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