Court to rule on protecting child victims, criminals

(iStock)
(iStock)

Pretoria - The High Court in Pretoria is on Tuesday expected to rule on a bid to stop the media from identifying child victims, witnesses, and offenders. 

The lawyers of Zephany Nurse brought the case in order to protect her identity before she turned 18 on April 29, 2015. Nurse was snatched from Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital shortly after her birth in 1997. Her biological parents found her in 2014.

Several media houses wanted to identify Zephany during the trial of her kidnapper. The Western Cape High Court sentenced her to 10 years in jail in August 2016. 

The bid to protect Zephany’s identity led to a bigger case. It was brought by Centre for Child Law (CCL), Childline, Nicro and Media Monitoring Africa and Zephany, the CCL said in its papers.

The Criminal Procedure Act prohibits the publication of any information that could lead to the identification of witnesses and offenders younger than 18.

Wim Trengove, SC, for 12 media houses, including Media24, argued on February 9 that a blanket ban on the identification of child victims and offenders in the media would be unrealistic and interfere with freedom of expression.

Trengove argued that the Child Justice Act already protects children and that a blanket ban does not exist anywhere in the world. Such a ban would make it difficult to publish the names of victims of accidents or hijackings. 

Steven Budlender, for the CCL, argued that child victims or offenders would suffer harm if they were named in the media after they turned 18.

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