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South African Crime Quarterly

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Aluta continua: Police accountability and the Domestic Violence Act 1998

Lisa Vetten

Abstract


In 1998, in an attempt to undo the long-standing neglect of domestic violence, legislators placed a set of duties on the police in relation to domestic violence, and coupled these with a unique system of accountability relations and practices. This article examines the effect of these in three ways: a review, both of complaints of misconduct and of the station audits conducted in terms of the Domestic Violence Act’s prescripts, and analysis of the workings of the act’s accountability mechanisms over time. These show the act’s system of accountability to have had some success in making domestic violence a policing priority, but only after a number of years of interaction across the domains of the political, legal, bureaucratic and social. Accountability has revealed itself to be a contingent outcome and practice that takes different forms at different times. It also remains an ambivalent undertaking in relation to domestic violence. While answers may be demanded of the police, oversight of these responses is lodged with an agency possessing limited capacity and weak institutional authority.




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