|2012 06 15 Press Release: LRC and CCL welcome Sexual Offences Act judgment|
For Immediate Release: Friday 15 June 2012
The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and the Centre for Child Law (CCL) have welcomed the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA)’s decision to uphold an appeal by the Western Cape director for public prosecutions.
Today’s unanimous judgment by Wallis J. of the SCA overturned an earlier decision by the Western Cape High Court which found that criminal charges could not be successfully prosecuted in respect of sexual offences under the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act 32 of 2007 (Sexual Offences Act), because of the absence of penalty provisions in that Act.
In welcoming the decision of the SCA, Ann Skelton, the CCL Director, said “The whole system had ground to a standstill – just yesterday charges were withdrawn against a sex offender because of the uncertainty in the law. Now all prosecutions can proceed, and child victims do not have to face the spectre of offenders already found guilty being set free.”
The LRC was acting for CCL which was admitted as the first amicus curiae in this matter. In this case we sought to emphasise the rights of victims of sexual offences particularly children in both the constitution and the international and regional conventions like the Convention on the rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. We submitted that the High Court’s judgment ignored these constitutional and international rights of children.
Wallis J. held that the penalty provisions in section 276 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977 empower courts to impose sentences in cases where a person(s) are convicted of sexual offences under the Sexual Offences Act and the fact that the Act itself does not contain penalty provisions does not justify the quashing of charges laid under the Sexual Offences Act.
Further Wallis J. held that the constitutional principle of legality is satisfied by reference to the sentencing powers enjoyed by all courts under section 276(1) Criminal Procedure Act. Wallis J. concluded by ordering that the order of the Western Cape High Court is set aside and replaced with the following order: “[t]he appeal succeeds and the order of the magistrate is altered to one dismissing the objection to the charge.”
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The LRC is an independent, non-profit, public interest law clinic, which uses law as an instrument of justice to provide legal services for the vulnerable.
The CCL was established by the University of Pretoria and its main objective is to promote child law and uphold the rights of children in South Africa, within an international and regional context.