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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 14. 1970

The Volksgerichthof

The Volksgerichthof

In Germany when some of the accused who were charged with the Reichstag fire were acquitted Hitler and Goering were so incensed at this type of justice that on April 24th, 1934 they restored what they considered to be a fair judicial equilibrium. The right to try treason cases was taken away from the Supreme Court and given to the "People's Court" (Volksgerichthof). These People's Courts were presided over by three Judges and five Assessors, being army or Nazi Party chiefs and furthermore, these Courts were not held in public they were held in camera.

In South Africa the Terrorism Act and other Acts removed from the Prosecutor his discretion concerning summary trials, and made them mandatory for offences under the Act, such as the Terrorism Act. In addition, these removed the right to bail and altered the laws of evidence to make the State's task easier. The guilt of the accused was assumed and the onus is on them to prove their innocence. The Prosecutor had greater latitude in joining different accused together and on bringing different charges against them at the same time and any Court is now given jurisdiction to try the accused anywhere in the Republic and not necessarily where the offence was committed, which was the normal rule. (See sections 2, 4 and 5 of the Terrorism Act, 83 of 1967 and Sections 327/8 of the Criminal Procedure Act and Section 12 of the Supression of Communism Act).