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A month ago, sexual assault accused Arnold Prins was set free after a controversial judgment of a full Bench of the Western Cape High Court found the new Sexual Offences Act was flawed.
On Friday, however, prosecuting authorities said Prins’s trial will proceed after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) found the High Court was wrong.
Western Cape Directorate of Public Prosecutions spokesman (DPP) Eric Ntabazalila confirmed the prosecution against Prins would be re-instated and added that all other cases affected by the High Court’s decision would proceed.
Prins’s case dates back to 2009 when he was first charged. His lawyers objected to the charge sheet on the basis that it did not disclose an offence – because the act did not prescribe sentences for several offences.
The Riversdale Regional Court agreed and quashed the charge.
However, the DPP appealed to the High Court, which ruled in May that the magistrate was correct.
The decision sent shockwaves through legal circles and while the DPP took the matter further to the SCA, affected pending cases were provisionally withdrawn and partly-heard matters were postponed.
Legislators also worked to amend the legislation, and an amending bill has since been passed and is awaiting the assent of President Jacob Zuma.
In the interim, due to the urgent nature of the matter, the SCA heard the appeal a month after the High Court’s ruling and it handed down judgment two days later.
A unanimous judgment of a full Bench of the SCA found that the High Court judgment was incorrect and ruled that penalty provisions in a section of the Criminal Procedure Act empowered courts to impose sentences on those convicted in terms of the act.
Judge Malcolm Wallis said it was imperative that there be clarity on the issue, saying the High Court’s ruling was in conflict with judgments handed down by courts in the Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and South Gauteng.
He also said that the absence of a specified penalty from the charge sheet did not render the charge invalid or warrant the quashing of the charge.
The judge president of the SCA and three judges of appeal concurred.