Centre for Child Law calls on SAPS to treat children arrested for looting in correct way
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Pretoria - The Centre for Child Law has called on the SAPS to treat any children (under 18) arrested for looting and acts of violence during this time, in terms of the law applicable to them.
“We urge law enforcement officials to enforce and comply with the standards set out in the Child Justice Act when dealing with a child alleged to be in conflict with the law. They need to be mindful that a child need not be detained unless it is a matter of last resort,” Karabo Ozah of the centre said.
She added that where the release from detention is impossible, detention must be for the shortest period of time. Whilst in detention, children must be separated from adults and girls must be separated from boys.
“Pragmatic steps must be taken in order to ensure the safe release of a child from detention into the care and custody of the caregiver pending appearance in the appropriate forum.”
The centre in particular condemned the voluntary or encouraged participation of children in these unlawful conducts. “Children are amongst the most vulnerable groups in society. Their human rights are prone to be affected by the actions and decisions of their caregivers, parents or guardians,” Ozah said.
Her warning comes in the wake of video footage showing the involvement of children in some of the looting in both Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
Meanwhile as hundreds of people have been arrested in Gauteng for looting over the past few days, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) warned that they will face the full brunt of the law and that prosecutors experienced in these types of cases have been tasked to prioritise these prosecutions.
NPA spokesperson advocate Mthunzi Mhaga said although no special courts have been established to deal with these cases, they will be prioritised.
“The head of the National Prosecution Service has advised Directors of Public Prosecutions in affected divisions to prioritise these matters, and to refer the cases to prosecutors with the requisite experience, who must work with and guide police in their investigations.”
“Should any special arrangements need to be made with regard to courts, this will be discussed with the relevant stakeholders,” Mhaga said.
He warned that those who choose lawlessness to destroy our country and its people must expect to face the full force of the law.
“The National Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Shamila Batohi, and the leadership of the NPA strongly condemn this lawlessness and criminality ravaging our country and are monitoring developments to better organise the NPA to respond appropriately”.
Mhaga said the NPA is co-ordinating closely with relevant government departments, in particular the SAPS, to ensure full and transparent accountability for anyone accused of committing crimes linked to these violent protests and looting.