Even a 'petty crime' record will hound you forever, Masutha warns pupils

2016-04-18 14:32

Cape Town - Justice Minister Michael Masutha on Monday urged a group of Cape Town school pupils to make sure they didn't get criminal records, because it was a blemish that would follow them for life.

"You can come to our correctional facilities, we can rehabilitate you, but you will carry what you have done for the rest of your life," he told pupils in a question-and-answer session on the Constitution in Parliament on Monday.

Masutha warned pupils that they wrongly thought that slapping someone, or harming them in some way, was petty and not really crime.

"It is assault," he told the pupils from schools, which included Settlers High School and Manenberg High School.

A criminal record meant a pupil would be unable to take up a promising bursary in the US or the UK, because of strict visa rules. He or she would have to wait out the 10 years it took to expunge their record.

The pupil would have to declare that record on every job application. Employers could decide to overlook it, but it would make it tougher to land certain jobs.

Schools had to take pupils back once they had served their sentence, or if they had been charged with anything, but a criminal record made life complicated.

Even prospective judges and magistrates were asked whether they had ever committed a crime or been charged with a crime.

The government was considering shortening, from 10 years to five, the period a criminal record remained in place until it was expunged. But even once it was expunged, it still had to be declared, said Masutha.

He spoke about drug addiction, saying pupils in rehabilitation were beautiful and smart, but would never heal completely and would carry their addiction, "like a baby", for the rest of their lives.

"So just remember, even when you are just a child, you are writing you own future. Never ever say to yourself, 'I'm still a kid, everybody will have forgotten when I'm 30'.  Good behaviour when you are still a child, is a licence to a better future."

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