SA urged to raise age of criminality from 10
CHILD rights activists believe the minimum age of criminal capacity of children, currently 10 years, is far too low and should be raised to international standards.
Joan van Niekerk, president of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, said the government was reviewing the minimum age. This was in line with a provision in the Child Justice Act that the age be reviewed five years after it came into effect – even though that was in 2011 and the report was presented to Parliament only last month.
Children younger than 10 are deemed to not have criminal capacity and are referred to a probation officer with various options of how to deal with them. Children aged between 10 and 14 are assessed and the prosecution must prove the child has a criminal capacity.
Van Niekerk said the test for criminal capacity was often misunderstood.
“It is not about whether the child can understand right from wrong. It is about maturity level and whether the child is able to act in accordance with it.”
Ann Skelton, from the Centre for Child Law, agreed the minimum age should be increased.
“When the Child Justice Act was drafted, there was already a concern that 10 was rather low.”
She said South Africa was “out of step with the world trend”. Last week the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended the age be raised to 12 years.