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Double jeopardy

SOUTH Africa’s legal system is an adversarial one. What this means is that each side goes out to win by dismissing the other side’s case. Indeed, the law – underpinned by the constitution – protects the accused in criminal cases by putting the burden of proof on the State (the prosecution) to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

Many victims of crime will argue that the law is an ass, that the processes designed to ensure fairness make successful prosecutions that much harder and put the criminals behind bars.

What about victims of sexual crimes? What about children, little children, who have not only been raped but now have adults doubting their words and forcing them to face up to the people who actually harmed them?

This week, little Tshego, 7, had to do just that inside a court room. To her credit, and to everyone else’s shame, she did just that as her alleged attacker sat in the court.

Tshego shouldn’t have been in the same room in the first place. She shouldn’t have had to point him out face-to-face. Because of this oversight, she was effectively punished twice.

Nobody deserves that, far less a child.

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