Justice Minister agrees to no time limit for prosecuting sexual assault cases

14 November 2017 - 14:11
By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Advocate Geoff Budlender. File Photo
Image: Gallo Images Advocate Geoff Budlender. File Photo

The Minister of Justice has conceded that a section of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) that imposes a 20-year limit on prosecution for sexual assault is unconstitutional.

The ministry‚ through its counsel Geoff Budlender SC‚ told the Constitutional Court on Tuesday that it does not oppose a South Gauteng High Court order declaring Section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act(CPA) unconstitutional.

The High Court suspended the declaration of constitutional invalidity of the section for 18 months to allow parliament to remedy the constitutional defect.

The minister‚ according to Budlender‚ however "urges that the period of suspension be 24 months and not 18 months".

A group of eight alleged survivors of child molestation perpetrated by the late stockbroker‚ Sydney Frankel‚ successfully had the section declared unconstitutional by the High Court and have now approached the Constitutional Court asking it to confirm the lower court's order.

The victims claim the billionaire sexually assaulted them more than 20 years ago in the 1970s and 1980s‚ when they were aged between seven and 15 years.

Frankel died at his home in Johannesburg earlier this year‚ at the age of 68. Section 18 of the CPA imposes a limit of 20 years in which to prosecute sexual assault‚ but the limit does not apply to rape.

Budlender argued that the minister accepts the seriousness of the offences involved.

"The minister accepts that the provision is unconstitutional and supports confirmation of the High Court order‚" Budlender contended.

Budlender told the court that the minister should not be made to pay the other parties' costs in the Constitutional Court as he is not opposing the application.

Arguing for the victims earlier‚ Anton Katz SC said the High Court’s invalidity order should have immediate effect.

Section 18 as it stands‚ according to Katz‚ does not allow perpetrators to have their day in court‚ and as such it has a traumatic effect on victims.