VOICE IDENTIFICATION ACCEPTABLE SUBJECT TO CREDIBILITY AND RELIABILITY

S v MAHLANGU 2018 (2) SACR 64 (GP)

 

Evidence — Identification — Voice identification — Such evidence acceptable, subject to its credibility and reliability — Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, s 37(1)(c).

 

The appellant was convicted in a regional magistrates’ court of robbery with aggravating circumstances and was sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment. He appealed against his conviction and the sentence. The appellant was, according to the state, one of three robbers armed with guns who confronted the complainant in his home. After demanding money they ransacked his home and then drew money from his bank account at the nearby ATM. During the course of the robbery the appellant asked the complainant if he recognised him, as he had previously worked for him. The complainant pretended that he did not, but in fact did remember him. After the appellant was arrested, he was identified by the complainant in an identification parade, through his voice.

Held, that s 37(1)(c) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 made provision for an identification parade. The voice was part of the category of marks,characteristics or features of the body. Provided the parade was properly held, the evidence of voice was acceptable in our courts, but it had to be credible in the sense of reliability.

In the present case the recommended safeguards were rigorously observed and the procedure was not challenged. The most important safeguard was the fact that the complainant had known the appellant for a long time and was familiar with his voice. In the circumstances the room for mistake was substantially minimised and the appellant had been properly identified. (See [11] – [12].) The court upheld the conviction, but set aside the sentence and replaced it with one of 15 years’ imprisonment.

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