Victims of Crime have strong rights – see “The Victims’ Charter” on the National Prosecuting Authority website http://www.npa.gov.za/files/Victims%20charter.pdf.
That’s all very well in theory, but to make our rights real it is up to us all to claim them, and to enforce them.
Make the criminal pay! Your right to compensation
One of your rights is to be awarded compensation for damage to or loss of property (including money) caused by the criminal. The court can, if satisfied that the criminal will be able to pay –
- Make it one of the conditions of suspension (or partial suspension) of the sentence that the criminal pay you compensation, either in one lump sum or in instalments. The threat of the suspended sentence coming into effect is a strong inducement to the criminal to pay you, and a recent High Court decision has confirmed that this option is preferable where the criminal has no or few executable assets but is employed and able to pay in instalments; or
- Make a compensation order, enforceable by you against the criminal as a civil judgment.
Discuss this with your attorney beforehand – you don’t want for example to risk prejudicing any insurance claim you may have, and you may also want to motivate option 1 above because executing against the criminal’s assets under option 2 will, as the Court put it, expose you to ”the costs and bother of execution”.
Don’t miss the boat
Your application for compensation must be lodged before sentencing. Although you can make the request direct, preferably do it through your attorney and/or the prosecutor.