President Cyril Ramaphosa has officially signed Child Justice Amendment Bill into law. The main purpose of the act looks at increasing the minimum age of criminal capacity of children who have committed a criminal act in South Africa.
According to the Presidency, this legislative change arises from a recommendation in the Report on the Review of the Minimum Age of Criminal Capacity that the minimum age of criminal capacity should be increased from 10 years to 12 years.
Previously, the Child Justice Act specified a child under the age of 10 years who commits an offence does not have criminal capacity. Therefore, they cannot be prosecuted.
It also asserted that a child who is 10 years of age, but under the age of 14, who commits an offence is also presumed to lack criminal capacity. That is unless the state can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the child has such criminal capacity.
The new Act which was signed into law by Ramaphosa, effectively raises the minimum and maximum ages taken into account when determining a child’s criminal capacity to 12 and 14 years respectively.
Furthermore, the Act also outlines certain factors which the state will need to consider when prosecuting children. These factors include:
- The educational level, cognitive ability, domestic and environmental circumstances, age and maturity of the child.
- The nature and seriousness of the alleged offence.
- The impact of the alleged offence on any victim.
- The interests of the community, as well as a probation officer’s assessment.
- The prospects of establishing criminal capacity.
The date in which the Act will come into effect is still to be determined by the President.
However, the Act also removes the requirement to prove criminal capacity for purposes of diversion and preliminary inquiries.
A diversion program is a form of correctional sentence. It offers the offender the opportunity to join a rehabilitation program. The program will help resolve the behaviour leading to the arrest, thereby avoiding a conviction and a criminal record.
What are your thoughts on the new Act? Do you feel the minimum age should have been adjusted? Do you feel children who commit crimes are not fully aware of their actions? Or do you feel children are fully aware of what they are doing and should be charged as adults?
Share your thoughts and views with us in the comment section below.