Bill is aim­ing to raise crim­i­nal ca­pac­ity from 10 to 12 years of age

Saturday Star - - NATION - SIYABONGA MKHWANAZI

JUS­TICE and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Min­is­ter Michael Ma­sutha, pic­tured, has tabled changes to the Child Jus­tice Bill by in­creas­ing the crim­i­nal ca­pac­ity of a child from 10 to 12 years old, mean­ing that care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion will be taken into ac­count when deal­ing with child of­fend­ers.

The bill in ques­tion main­tains that chil­dren in con­flict with the law should not be treated or pe­nalised as adults un­der the Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure Act. In the amend­ments tabled in Par­lia­ment, Ma­sutha has pro­posed this change.

The Child Jus­tice Act was first passed by Par­lia­ment a few years ago, but now Ma­sutha has tabled the amend­ments.

One of the is­sues the bill ad­vo­cates for is the re­view of the min­i­mum age of crim­i­nal ca­pac­ity of a mi­nor.

“Sec­tion 7 is there­fore be­ing amended to pro­vide that a child un­der the age of 12 years does not have crim­i­nal ca­pac­ity and can­not be pros­e­cuted.

A child who is 12 years or older but un­der the age of 14 is pre­sumed not to have crim­i­nal ca­pac­ity un­less the state proves be­yond rea­son­able doubt that the child does,” it added.

A few years ago, when the orig­i­nal act was crafted, MPS ar­gued about the crim­i­nal ca­pac­ity and what the ac­cept­able age would be.

They even­tu­ally set­tled on 10 years old. But now the min­is­ter of jus­tice has pro­posed that it should be in­creased to 12 years based on the re­port on the re­view of the crim­i­nal ca­pac­ity of a child.

Child rights groups have also been con­cerned in the past about chil­dren be­ing kept in cus­tody.

The re­port from the De­part­ment of Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices (DCS) in Par­lia­ment a few months ago showed that most of the peo­ple in­car­cer­ated form part of the youth. Also, the pris­ons are burst­ing at the seams with over­crowd­ing as a se­ri­ous mat­ter fac­ing the de­part­ment.

Out of a prison pop­u­la­tion of 162 000, a to­tal of 43 000 in­mates are await­ing trial with the rest serv­ing sen­tences.

The DSC said it was plan­ning to build more pris­ons in the coun­try to meet the de­mand of bed space.

The bill will now be tabled be­fore the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on jus­tice and cor­rec­tional ser­vices

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