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Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No. 51 of 1977)

Chapter 22 : Conduct of Proceedings

159. Circumstances in which criminal proceedings may take place in absence of accused


(1) If an accused at criminal proceedings conducts himself in a manner which makes the continuance of the proceedings in his presence impracticable, the court may direct that he be removed and that the proceedings continue in his absence.


(2) If two or more accused appear jointly at criminal proceedings and—
(a) the court is at any time after the commencement of the proceedings satisfied, upon application made to it by any accused in person or by his representative—
(i) that the physical condition of that accused is such that he is unable to attend the proceedings or that it is undesirable that he should attend the proceedings; or
(ii) that circumstances relating to the illness or death of a member of the family of that accused make his absence from the proceedings necessary; or
(b) any of the accused is absent from the proceedings, whether under the provisions of subsection (1) or without leave of the court,

the court, if it is of the opinion that the proceedings cannot be postponed without undue prejudice, embarrassment or inconvenience to the prosecution or any co-accused or any witness in attendance or subpoenaed to attend, may—

(aa) in the case of paragraph (a), authorise the absence of the accused concerned from the proceedings for a period determined by the court and on the conditions which the court may deem fit to impose; and
(bb) direct that the proceedings be proceeded with in the absence of the accused concerned.


(3) Where an accused becomes absent from the proceedings in the circumstances referred to in subsection (2), the court may, in lieu of directing that the proceedings be proceeded with in the absence of the accused concerned, upon the application of the prosecution direct that the proceedings in respect of the absent accused be separated from the proceedings in respect of the accused who are present, and thereafter, when such accused is again in attendance, the proceedings against him shall continue from the stage at which he became absent, and the court shall not be required to be differently constituted merely by reason of such separation.


(4) If an accused who is in custody in terms of an order of court cannot, by reason of his physical indisposition or other physical condition, be brought before a court for the purposes of obtaining an order for his further detention, the court before which the accused would have been brought for purposes of such an order if it were not for the indisposition or other condition, may, upon application made by the prosecution at any time prior to the expiry of the order for his detention wherein the circumstances surrounding the indisposition or other condition are set out, supported by a certificate from a medical practitioner, order, in the absence of such an accused, that he be detained at a place indicated by the court and for the period which the court deems necessary in order that he can recover and be brought before the court so that an order for his further detention for the purposes of his trial can be obtained.

[Section 159(4) inserted by section 9 of Act No. 5 of 1991]