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Johannesburg – Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on Wednesday adopted the Child Justice Amendment Bill which increases the age of criminal capacity in children.

Committee Chairperson, Madipoane Refiloe Moremadi Mothapo, said the purpose of the Bill is to, among other things, further regulate the minimum age of criminal capacity. 

"The primary objective of the Child Justice Amendment Bill is to increase the minimum age of criminal capacity of children from 10 years to 12 years – and to remove the requirement to prove criminal capacity for purposes of diversion and preliminary inquiries," said Mothapo.

She said the Act provides that a child under the age of 10 years who commits an offence does not have criminal capacity and cannot be prosecuted. 

"It further states that a child who is 10 years or older but under 14 years who commits an office is presumed to lack criminal capacity, unless the state proves beyond reasonable doubt that the child has such criminal capacity."

The committee received two written submissions on the Bill. 

Mothapo said during its deliberations, the committee considered the proposed amendment to section 92 of the Child Justice Act, which addresses children used by adults to commit crimes.

In some instances, however, young children are used by older children to commit crimes. The amendment, therefore, seeks to substitute the word "adult" with "persons" to deal with this.

“During its deliberations, however, the committee noted the paucity of information regarding the occurrence of children being used by adults to commit crimes. Nor does there appear to be any information that the relevant section of the Act is being used to charge those who take advantage of children in this way," said Mothapo. 

"The committee therefore requests that the ministry should engage with the Minister of Police and the National Prosecuting Authority with a view to ensuring that the necessary data is collected and regularly reported on.”

African News Agency (ANA)