Book Review: Principles of Criminal Law by J Burchell

Aug 23, 2016 | 2016, Book Review, News

Reviewed by Louis Rood.

This established work on criminal law incorporates major judicial pronouncements in recent cases on important aspects of the subject, including treason, common purpose liability, robbery with aggravating circumstances, racketeering, consensual child sexual experimentation, and dolus eventualis (indirect intention).

Significant new and amended legislation is also dealt with, such as the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2013, and the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Act of 2008.

This Book is a companion volume to Cases and Materials on Criminal Law (Fourth Edition, 2016) by the same author. Both are available in ebook form, which will be welcomed by busy legal practitioners and judicial officers.

In addition to its comprehensive content on the general principles of criminal liability, there is a detailed exposition of specific crimes, ranging from abduction to bribery, arson to perjury, extortion to fraud.

In dealing with the principle of legality, the learned author calmly sets the context: “The criminal justice system, by resort to arrest, trial and punishment of wrongdoers, proceeds in the main by way of interference with basic civil rights of life, liberty and property. In modern Western liberal democracies these interferences, while permitted, are subject to the rule of law or, in countries like South Africa, the rule of law and the Bill of Rights. That is to say, the nature and manner of the interference with civil rights is regulated by laws designed to ensure that the criminal law is applied with respect for the civil and political rights and freedoms prevailing within the society and according to agreed norms of justice and fairness. The principle of legality constitutes the essence of the Rule of Law in the context of the criminal law.’

With extensive footnotes and references, full tables of statues and cases cited and a meticulous index, this is an indispensable and authoritative resource by the leading academic in the field, with more than 40 years of legal writing under his belt. Emeritus Professor of Law and Fellow of the University of Cape Town, Jonathan Burchell BA, LLB, LLM, Dip in Comparative Legal Studies, PhD, and publishers Juta are to be congratulated on producing this excellent Fifth Edition 25 years after the First Edition was published in 1991.