SA urged to raise age of crim­i­nal­ity from 10

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - KAMINI PADAYACHEE

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.

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