President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the Child Justice Amendment Bill into law.
The primary objective of the new act is to increase the minimum age of criminal capacity of children who have committed an offence in South Africa.
‘Capacity’ is one of the key factors that South Africa’s courts consider whether a person is culpable when committing a crime.
The Child Justice Act previously stated that a child under the age of 10 years who commits an offence does not have criminal capacity and cannot be prosecuted.
It also stated that a child who is 10 years or older (but under 14 years) who commits an offence is presumed to lack criminal capacity unless the state proves beyond reasonable doubt that the child has such criminal capacity.
The new Act 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.
The Act also outlines the factors that the state will have to consider when prosecuting young persons for a crime including:
- 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; a probation officer’s assessment report;
- The prospects of establishing criminal capacity.
The Act also removes the requirement to prove criminal capacity for purposes of diversion and preliminary inquiries.
A diversion program is a form of sentence in which the criminal offender joins a rehabilitation program, which will help remedy the behaviour leading to the original arrest and avoid conviction and a criminal record.
The Act will commence at a later date determined by the President by proclamation in the government gazette.
You can read the full gazette below.