02.03.2012.Justice Minister Jeff Radebe speaks out after he unveiled the discussion document at a briefing at Parliament on Thursday that was intended to allay fears that the evaluation could constitute an attack on the independence of the judiciary. Picture : Sizwe Ndingane

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe welcomed a ruling on Friday against a judgment that a man could not be sentenced because of a flaw in the Sexual Offences Act.

“The judgment dispels doubts cast on Parliament in passing the Sexual Offences Act without any penalties, and also confirms the convictions of all person who have committed crimes since the implementation of the act,” Radebe said in a statement.

He said the judgment by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) highlighted the plight of those, especially women and children, who were often victims of sexual crimes.

The SCA upheld an appeal by the Western Cape director for public prosecutions (DPP).

Police would continue to investigate all cases reported and they will be taken to trial in the normal way, said Radebe.

“This judgment brings certainty to our criminal justice system in the fight against crime.”

The SCA overturned a Western Cape High Court decision which held that criminal charges could not be successfully pursued and prosecuted in respect of sexual offences under the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act (SOA).

The High Court's decision followed a decision by the Riversdale Magistrate's Court that a man who forcibly fondled a woman in 2009 could not be sentenced because the behaviour had no penalty under the SOA.

Arnold Prins was charged with sexual assault in terms of the Act, which came into effect at the end of 2007.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) on Friday also hailed the ruling.

“The decision to appeal this judgment was informed by the far-reaching implications on sexual violence cases in the whole province...,” the NPA said in a statement.

It said the judgment confirmed its belief that courts had an inherent discretion to impose an appropriate sentence in cases where no penalty provision was provided by legislation.

“The NPA will continue its aggressive approach in prosecuting sexual abuse cases without hindrance.”

The NPA said all cases which were partly heard and had been postponed pending completion of this appeal would proceed; cases which were provisionally withdrawn would be reinstated, and trials would proceed.

“Prosecutors will now charge people in respect of new cases which had been brought to prosecutors by police for decision, and where arrests were put on hold pending the SCA ruling.” – Sapa