Loopholes in law on sexual predators shut

Time of article published Jul 6, 2012

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Deon de Lange

SEXUAL predators in the Western Cape once again face the full might of the law after President Jacob Zuma signed an amended Sexual Offences Act on June 23.

The new law was published in the Government Gazette three days later. The announcement was made yesterday.

The amendment was rushed through Parliament just weeks earlier as an emergency measure after a full bench of the Western Cape High Court had ruled that 29 sexual offences contained in the act were not legally enforceable. The judges argued that the failure by lawmakers to prescribe penalties made the offences “unpunishable”.

This raised the fear that sexual offenders prosecuted in the Western Cape since the act came into force in December 2009 could successfully challenge their convictions – or have pending cases dismissed – on the strength of the precedent established by this ruling.

Amid a public outcry, MPs engaged in a refreshingly bipartisan lawmaking session by quickly drafting and agreeing to an amendment which sailed through the laborious legislative process in record time.

Because no law can be made to act retrospectively, the National Prosecuting Authority also appealed the Cape court’s judgment before the Supreme Court of Appeal, which overturned the ruling last month.

The success of this two-pronged approach means all loopholes in the legislation have been plugged.

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