Ms Bongolethu Diko graduated with her Masters in Criminology and Forensic Studies for her research on the role of the Criminologist in Compiling Pre-sentence Reports in the Durban High Court. 

Pre-sentence reports are generally compiled by social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists without any contribution by criminologists. According to Diko, the courts are not always aware that criminologists can clarify criminal conduct and identify both mitigating and aggravating factors that need to be considered in the sentencing process. 

‘People in general, but members of the Criminal Justice System in particular, have limited knowledge of the value of criminologists’ ability to compile holistic pre-sentence reports. Lack of knowledge of this vital role has influenced many individuals to lose interest in contemplating Criminology and Forensic Studies as fields of academic pursuit. Little information about criminology exists in the public domain,’ explained Diko. 

Despite facing financial difficulties, one of the highlights of Diko’s research was the opportunity to interview one of the people that were involved in the criminal case of Oscar Pistorius. This learning experience made her appreciate the valuable role played by criminologists. 

Diko hopes her study will assist in highlighting new roles for South African criminologists in the country’s justice system. The key findings were the inability to perform psychological assessments, meaning that criminologists are unable to conduct mental assessments and the lack of professional recognition and information. 

She thanked her family, friends and supervisor for their support. Diko now plans to pursue her PhD.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan