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NPA: Focus on victims of sex crimes

2012-06-06 14:11

Johannesburg - Focusing on the victims of sexual crimes would help to combat and prevent further violence against women and children, the acting deputy National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) said on Wednesday.

"We need to make court environments conducive to allowing victims to give information, to give advice and to give us feedback," Thoko Majokweni said in Johannesburg.

She was speaking at the fifth sexual offences indaba hosted by the National Prosecuting Authority and managed by the Sexual Offences and Community Affairs [Soca] Unit.

"Our primary aim is to contain and prevent (sexual violence).

"Where we can't prevent, we must act decisively... and lock away those that offend," Majokweni said.

Since the last indaba, great work had been done to re-establish specialised sexual offences courts and to re-appoint forensic interviewers. This was especially important to ensure that children's testimonies were properly recorded and to secure convictions.

Judiciary working to rectify legislative gaps

To protect abused children, it was essential that they were interviewed by experts to make sure the language used was age appropriate, Majokweni said.

Nomgcobo Jiba, the acting NDPP, said the justice system was working hard to rectify legislative gaps which led to a recent "disturbing" ruling in the Western Cape High Court.

This was after a man who forcibly fondled a woman in 2009 could not be sentenced because the behaviour had no penalty under the act.

Arnold Prins was charged with sexual assault in terms of the act, but objected to the charge sheet because the behaviour had no penalty under the act.

The regional court quashed the charges and this action was upheld by a full bench of the high court.

The Sexual Offences Act was amended by Parliament on Tuesday, as an urgent interim measure, to give courts the discretion to impose sentences for the 29 offences for which penalties are not prescribed.

Jiba said the sexual offences and related matters amendment bill, to be tabled shortly, would allow judges to use their discretion in sentencing various sexual crimes.