Justice Minister Michael Masutha
Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha has tabled changes to the Child Justice Bill by increasing the criminal capacity of a child from 10 to 12 years old, meaning that careful consideration will be taken into account when dealing with child offenders.

The bill in question maintains that children in conflict with the law should not be treated or penalised as adults under the Criminal Procedure Act. In the amendments tabled in Parliament, Masutha has proposed this change.

The Child Justice Act was first passed by Parliament a few years ago, but now Masutha has tabled the amendments.

One of the issues the bill advocates for is the review of the minimum age of criminal capacity of a minor.

“Section 7 is therefore being amended to provide that a child under the age of 12 years does not have criminal capacity and cannot be prosecuted.

A child who is 12 years or older but under the age of 14 is presumed not to have criminal capacity unless the state proves beyond reasonable doubt that the child does,” it added.

A few years ago, when the original act was crafted, MPs argued about the criminal capacity and what the acceptable age would be.

They eventually settled on 10 years old. But now the minister of justice has proposed that it should be increased to 12 years based on the report on the review of the criminal capacity of a child.

Child rights groups have also been concerned in the past about children being kept in custody.

The report from the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) in Parliament a few months ago showed that most of the people incarcerated form part of the youth. Also, the prisons are bursting at the seams with overcrowding as a serious matter facing the department.

Out of a prison population of 162 000, a total of 43 000 inmates are awaiting trial with the rest serving sentences.

The DSC said it was planning to build more prisons in the country to meet the demand of bed space.

The bill will now be tabled before the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services.

Political Bureau