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n Tydskrif vir die Suid-Afrikaanse Reg - Wederregtelikheidsbewussyn as misdaadvereiste in 'n liberale en plurale regstaat : stel die onderwerping van 'n bona fide persoon aan strafsanksies onregmatige uitoefening van staatsgesag daar?
Consciousness of unlawfulness as element of crime in a liberal and plural constitutional state : does subjecting a bona fide person to criminal sanctions amount to unlawful execution of state power?
This article investigates the modern status of the maxim ignorantia iuris neminem excusat in criminal law. It is pointed out that Anglo-American legal systems, with few exceptions, still adhere strictly to this maxim. In German law error iuris constitutes a defence only if ignorance of the law was unavoidable. Unavoidability is determined with specific reference to the individual competencies, abilities and circumstances of the accused. Since 1977 error iuris is a complete defence on a criminal charge in South Africa. In support of this approach, it is maintained that subjecting a bona fide person to criminal sanctions amounts to the illegitimate execution of state power. The approach in German criminal law can therefore be supported only to the extent that unavoidable ignorance of the law covers the same ground as dolus eventualis in South African criminal law.
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