Watching Briefs? The Role of Legal Practitioners in a Watching Brief

Over December 2023, South Africa was tuned to their televisions with the bail proceedings of Bafana Mahungela, where our Mr Abrie van Der Merwe was instructed by the family of the deceased to act on a watching brief.

This begs the question – what is a watching brief? A watching brief is a mandate to act on behalf of the complainant or the family of the deceased or anyone who has an interest in a criminal matter (other than the accused). The role of a legal representative in a watching brief is to assist the Prosecutor (where necessary) with making notes during the proceedings, doing research etc. and most importantly, to report to the client who may not always be familiar with the processes involved. The legal representative cannot appear in the proceedings as the State remains dominus litus.

During the bail proceedings of Bafana Mahungela, the Magistrate made it clear that the State is entitled to utilise the resources at their disposal, which includes input and assistance from a legal representative acting on a watching brief.

For more information on the input from our Mr van der Merwe, here are a few articles and comments from our Mr van der Merwe:



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