Constitutional Court: Hawks “insufficiently insulated from political influence”

Posted on March 17, 2011. Filed under: Courts |

Kate Lefko-Everett

Thanks to the amazing expediency of new social media, and a mid-morning tweet by Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes (@NicDawes), we recently learned that the highest court of the land has ruled invalid the law enacted to disband the former elite crime-fighting unit, the Directorate of Special Operations (or “the Scorpions”).

A press release issued by the Court states that in the case of the case of Hugh Glenister v President of the Republic of South Africa & Others,

“The majority of the Court (in a joint judgment by Moseneke DCJ and Cameron J, in which Froneman J, Nkabinde J and Skweyiya J concur) finds that Chapter 6A of the South African Police Service Act 68 of 1995, as amended, is inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid to the extent that it fails to secure an adequate degree of independence for the DPCI.”

According to the press statement, the case has primarily focused on

“…whether the national legislation that created the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as the Hawks (DPCI), and disbanded the Directorate of Special Operations, known as the Scorpions (DSO), is constitutionally valid.”

The Court’s two main findings are that: first, the state is constitutionally bound to “establish and maintain an independent body to combat corruption and organised crime”; and second, that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (“the Hawks”) established after the disbanding of the Scorpions “does not meet the constitutional requirement of adequate independence” and is “insufficiently insulated from political influence in its structure and functioning”.

For more information, have a look at the Court’s press statement or the full judgment (PDF version or Word version).

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