Today, City Press publishes a special report on sexual offences courts, in partnership with Africa Check, in its print edition.
In 2013, a ministerial advisory task team developed a model for these courts. Here are six things a sexual offences court should have:
1. A designated courtroom equipped with closed-circuit television and sound equipment and/or one-way glass facilities
“In 2013, the department developed an improved dual-view closed circuit television (CCTV) system, which is referred to as ‘SOS’. Since the commencement of the sexual offences courts (SOC) project in August 2013, the SOS has been installed at every SOC. To keep up with technological advancements, in 2018 the department commenced with the review of the specifications of the SOS. This process is under way,” says department of justice and constitutional development spokesperson Steve Mahlangu.
2. A special room from which the victim will testify, which must have minimal furniture and decoration
“Every SOC has a private testifying room, which allows the victim to testify outside the physical presence of the accused and away from any possible intimidation. The room is also equipped with a screen that gives the victim visual access to the courtroom to identify the accused, where necessary. The testifying room also has, among others, a designed bed-couch for child witnesses to take a nap when tired or drowsy during testimony.”
3. A private waiting room and/or play area for victims and their families, which must be informally arranged
“The department designed a standard children’s furniture set for the private children’s waiting room, which has a colourful kiddies table and chairs, two ottomans; a two-seater sofa for court accompaniment persons (usually parents/ guardians), toy storage cabinets etc. The room is also equipped with an information screen to empower children with age-appropriate information.”
READ: When victim and attacker have to wait side by side
4. Victim support services
“The SOCs offer a basket of support services, which includes: information services; court preparation services; a pre-trial emotional containment service; an intermediary service (for children and persons with mental disability); a private testifying service; witness fees (travelling and food allowances); a post-trial emotional containment service and a referral service.”
5. Availability of intermediaries
“The department provides intermediary services for children and persons with mental disability at the SOCs. To maximise the utilisation of these services, intermediaries are shared among courts as cases involving child witnesses or persons with mental disabilities are not always featuring in the court rolls.”
6. Specialist interpreters who have received training on child development and working with persons with mental disability
“Interpreters are available and trained by the Justice College. They are also taken through the trauma debriefing programme to minimise vicarious trauma. The selection of participants is done at regional level.”