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Fri Oct 31 08:57:57 SAST 2014

Sexual offences act flaws cripple fight against such crimes: DA

Sapa | 13 May, 2012 15:05
It was vital that a bill was "urgently" tabled to ensure other offenders did not escape prosecution.
Image by: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Apparent flaws in the Criminal Procedure Amendment Act on sexual offences were a "devastating blow" to the fight against such crimes, the DA said on Sunday.

"On Friday, the Cape High Court held that certain sections of the act, affecting 29 sexual offences, did not contain any penalty clauses, and therefore nobody can be charged with any of these acts...," Democratic Alliance justice spokeswoman Debbie Schafer said in a statement.

In the case, charges were dropped against a man accused of a sexual offence after his lawyer argued that there were no penalties for the specific charge under the act.

University of the Witwatersrand law professor Stephen Tuson said on Saturday that the principal of legality meant there could be no crime without a stipulated punishment.

Schafer said the gap in legislation also had "huge implications" for those already convicted on certain offences.

She would write to the chairman of the Justice portfolio committee asking him, in consultation with Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, to correct the matter.

It was vital that a bill was "urgently" tabled to ensure other offenders did not escape prosecution.

The absence of penalty clauses undermined the intention behind the act, which was to criminalise acts previously not classified as crimes, such as sexual grooming and compelled rape, Schafer said.

The African Christian Democratic Party was also "deeply concerned" about the omissions, spokesman Steve Swart said in a statement.

The possibility that charges against sexual offenders convicted under the act could be overturned "cannot be tolerated" because sexual crimes were reaching "endemic proportions" in South Africa.

Swart, who is a member of the justice and constitutional development portfolio committee, said amendments to the legislation might be needed to close the gaps exposed by Friday's court ruling.

"It may even be necessary to consider passing this amending legislation with retrospective effect to prevent already convicted persons making use of this loophole."

He said the ACDP would ask for an urgent Parliamentary briefing by the National Prosecuting Authority to decide whether amendments to the law would be necessary.

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