Section 50 of the Criminal Procedure Act

01 June 2023 ,  Melody Sithole 397

When a person is arrested for the alleged commission of an offence, they should be taken to the police station as soon as reasonably possible. Once a person is brought to the police station, they should be informed of their right to institute bail proceedings. An accused person must appear before a lower court as soon as reasonably possible, but it should not be later than 48 hours after they were arrested, irrespective of the fact that no formal charges have been brought against them or the fact that they didn’t receive police or prosecutorial bail.

Exceptions to the 48-hour period in terms of the Criminal procedure Act.

Section 50(d) states as follows:

 If the period of 48 hours expires-

  1. outside ordinary court hours (from 9:00 until 16:00 on a court day) or on a day which is not an ordinary court day (a day on which the court in question normally sits as a court), the accused shall be brought before a lower court not later than the end of the first court day;
  2. or will expire at, or if the time at which such period is deemed to expire under subparagraph (i) or (iii) is or will be, a time when the arrested person cannot, because of his or her physical illness or other physical condition, be brought before a lower court, the court before which he or she would, but for the illness or other condition, have been brought, may on the application of the prosecutor, which, if not made before the expiration of the period of 48 hours, may be made at any time before, or on, the next succeeding court day, and in which the circumstances relating to the illness or other condition are set out, supported by a certificate of a medical practitioner, authorise that the arrested person be detained at a place specified by the court and for such period as the court may deem necessary so that he or she may recuperate and be brought before the court: Provided that the court may, on an application as aforesaid, authorise that the arrested person be further detained at a place specified by the court and for such period as the court may deem necessary; or
  3. at a time when the arrested person is outside the area of jurisdiction of the lower court to which he or she is being brought for the purposes of further detention and he or she is at such time in transit from a police station or other place of detention to such court, the said period shall be deemed to expire at the end of the court day next succeeding the day on which such arrested person is brought within the area of jurisdiction of such court.

During the first appearance of an accused person in court, the court will inform them of the reasons for their further detention or be charged and given an opportunity to apply for bail. If the accused person is not charged or informed of the reasons for their continued arrest, they will be released. If the accused person was not arrested for an offence, they will be entitled to adjudication regarding the cause of their arrest.

Bail proceedings or applications can be postponed for a period that does not exceed seven days at a time:

  • if the court believes that there is not sufficient information/evidence at its disposal for it to make an informed decision on the bail application;
  • if prosecution informs the court that the matter was or is going to be referred to the attorney-general so that they can issue a confirmation letter;
  • if it appears to the court that the postponement will grant the State a reasonable opportunity to obtain evidence that may be lost if bail is granted or to perform the functions in section 37;
  • if it is in the interests of justice to do so.

Bail applications for schedule 6 offences are considered by a Magistrates Court unless if the Director of Public Prosecutions or a prosecutor approved by the Director of Public Prosecutions in writing deem it necessary for the administration of justice that the application be heard in the regional court.  


Reference list:

The Criminal Procedure Handbook (12th ed).

The Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977.