Implementation of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 (Act 32 of 2007): briefing

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Justice and Correctional Services

16 August 2010
Chairperson: Mr J Jeffery (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Departments of Justice and Social Development outlined several outstanding issues on the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which was being implemented with guidance from the National Instructions, Directives and Regulations. The objectives of the Act were to be a single statute that dealt with all sexual offences and to regulate the manner in which sexual offences were dealt with through the adoption of a National Policy Framework. The National Policy Framework. The Department’s strategy concerning the implementation of the Criminal Law Amendment Act was to establish an operational inter-sectoral committee. It was led by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and it also comprised senior officials from various other departments. The National Instructions and Regulations had already been put in place at departmental level. The National Prosecuting Authority has already issued Directives to its prosecutors. The National Policy Framework was overdue in Parliament, as the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development had missed several deadlines. An update on this matter was that the Director Generals of the various Stakeholder Departments would discuss it within the next two weeks; thereafter it would make its way to Parliament. As a compulsory requirement each department that was a stakeholder had to produce regular and comprehensive reports that had to be submitted to Parliament. In its efforts to assist victims of sexual offences, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development had improved its efforts to roll out audio and visual equipment in dedicated courts. The National Prosecuting Authority planned  to have 25 Thuthuzeli Care Centres by the end of the 2010/2011 financial year. The Department Justice and Constitutional Development was busy with Phase 1 of the Register for sexual offenders and was looking towards dealing with Phase 2, it was hoped that it would be finalised within the next 18 months.

The Copmmittee expressed grave concern over the missed deadlines, a casualty of this was the very important
The National Policy Framework which Parliament was still awaiting. The issue of documentation arriving late for purposes of the meetings was also flagged as an issue of concern. There had been inquiries made into the functionality of the Register for sexual offenders as well as its accessability. The department of Social Development was questioned regarding the availability of social workers at Thuthuzeli Care Centres. The Committee requested the exact number of dedicated courts as there had previously been some ambiguouty on this issue. There was a debate as whether or not the South African Police Services Officials had read the Act. This was triggered by the fact that the police had not published a report on the training of officers six months after the commencment of the Act as per its instructions. The outstanding issues were threshed out and were as follows: the Department Justice and Constitutional Development would compile a detailed report that would address the critical issues that had been raised by the Committee; the National Policy Framework would make its way to Parliament by the end of the month and more information would be provided regarding human trafficking activities.


Meeting report

Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act, 2007 (Act 32 of 2007): Implementation issues: Departmental briefings
Advocate Pieter Du Randt, Acting Deputy Director General: Court Services, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, informed the Committee that the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act (the Act) was being implemented with guidance from the National Instructions, Directives and Regulations. The Department of Social Development (DSD) was providing services to victims. The Act aimed to be a single statute that dealt with all sexual offences and related matters. The Act also sought to regulate the manner in which sexual offences were dealt with, through the adoption of a National Policy Framework (NPF). The Department had considered an integrated implementation plan and decided that the best course of action was to establish an operational inter-sectoral committee on the implementation of the Act. This committee was led by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. It comprised senior officials from various other departments. It also provided a forum where there could be discussions on progress, challenges and all matters related to the implementation of the Act.

There was an inter-departmental process that dealt with Instructions and Directives. The National Instructions and Directives (the Directives) had already been put in place at various departments. The reason for the guidelines was to ensure that personnel across various departments dealt with all aspects of the Act in a uniform way. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had distributed the Directives to all its prosecutors and the Department had also published regulations for a Register that was to contain the names of sexual offenders.

Adv du Randt noted that the inter-sectoral committee set up for the management of sexual offences had already met this year for the first time. It was still to discuss the consideration of a Draft National Policy Framework. The NPF was overdue in being presented to Parliament, but all that was left was to hold a discussion by the Director Generals, after which the document would be forwarded to Parliament, within the next two weeks. There was always regular feedback in the inter-sectoral committee. Each stakeholder department had to produce regular and comprehensive reports, which were also to be submitted to Parliament.

The Department had made funds available for the testing of the
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The Department also continued to roll out activities that related to sexual offences courts, which included the installation of audio visual equipment and other equipment that would prevent secondary traumatisation of the victims. A whole range of court preparation officers and intermediaries had been appointed. They were administered by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Their function was to assist victims in court, such as children and disabled persons. The NPA had continued to roll out the Thuthuzela Care Centres. The plan was to have 25 by the end of the 2010/2011 financial year.  Eight One-Stop Centres were in place to ensure that victims received support and empowerment. There was now a holistic approach to dealing with these support centres, from a multi-departmental point of view. The only challenges were related to the budget.

Adv du Randt expanded that about 20% of dedicated courts had audio and visual equipment to assist victims. The equipment was also rolled out to ordinary regional courts. The Department was busy with Phase 1 of the Register for sexual offenders and was looking towards dealing with Phase 2. Hopefully this would be finalised within the next 18 months. Case information from the various courts was being captured on a monthly basis. This case monitoring system assisted the Department in its case flow management efforts. There had been an improvement in the conviction rate in cases involving sexual offences. There was a project aimed at reducing case backlogs, where cases involving children and sexual offences were treated as a priority. Training manuals had been completed and piloted in certain instances. There had been training for prosecutors, magistrates and other individuals. The Department had raised awareness around sexual offences. 

Discussion
The Chairperson inquired about the NPF and asked when it was due in Parliament, pointing out that there had already been a considerable delay in tabling it.

Adv du Randt replied that the Department had already finalised the NPF, and the operational committee would also finalise it within the next two weeks. It would then be sent to the Minister of Justice, who would table it in Parliament.

Mr S Swart (ACDP) said that it was a matter of concern that the Department kept missing deadlines. There were a number of other obligations in the Act that the Department had not touched on. Some of the obligations had been complied with, whilst others were only partially fulfilled, and some were not complied with at all. In the Constitutional Court case of The Director of Public Prosecutions v The Minister of Justice, the Court had expressed concern that there were few facilities available for intermediaries. He enquired whether this situation had been improved and whether the Register for offenders was improving.
 
Adv Du Randt replied that it was difficult to say these delays had occurred. At the moment, matters were being fast-tracked and, by the end of the month, the Department would have attended to all outstanding issues. At ground level most activities around the Act had continued and there had been improved coordination between the role players.

Ms Ntombizodwa Chiloane, Director, Registrar’s office, said that the Phase 1 implementation was nearing its end. Phase 1 related the current applications, dating back to 30 June 2009. Phase 2 related to the capturing of historical data as well as clearance certificates. There were budgetary challenges around Phase 2. The Registrar had held a meeting with all the relevant departments and discussed how information would be received.

Mr Swart asked if the information was easily accessible, and whether the Register was working.

Ms Chiloane replied that when information was received from South African Police Services (SAPS) it went through two registers. Phase 1 had been implemented in relation to the receipt of current information. Historic information would be collected from June 2009, as far back as possible. Phase 2 would be finalised within the next 18 to 24 months. 


Mr J Jeffery (ANC) complained that the presentation documents had arrived late, and this was unacceptable. He too asked why the Department in particular found it so difficult to meet deadlines. He asked whether the Department could address the issue of the HIV testing for victims.

Adv du Randt conceded that it was unacceptable that documents should be received late, and the Department was taking putting pressure on its officials to
prepare and submit documents expeditiously in future.

Ms N Michael (DA) asked how far was the process of getting enough social workers for the Thuthuzela Care Centres.

Ms Michael said that the forensic test results were taking too long, resulting in people not even going to court.

Adv Du Randt replied that
the Department had tried to fast track forensic data for cases that involved sexual offences. There was now a system in place whereby prosecutors could flag a particular issue, which would then be highlighted as a priority and quickly dispensed with. This had resulted in an improvement in terms of turnaround time.

Ms Michael questioned why the Department had initially said that there were 60 dedicated courts, only to later say that there were 42. She also noted her concerns that not all dedicated courts had the same equipment as the Pretoria Magistrates court.

Adv du Randt noted that some previous
Ministers had wanted to prioritise dedicated courts whilst others were of the view that they created two types of justice systems, as they were not located in all regions. That was one of the reasons for the decline in numbers, but the Department was now attempting to have the dedicated courts rolled out to all courts. Another reason for the decline was that the judiciary was in charge of the court roll, and magistrates were often reluctant to deal with cases that related to one subject matter only.

Ms Kamogelo Lekubo-Wilderson, Director: Victim Support Services, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, added that the Department was providing various regions with funds on an annual basis to ensure that they had adequate resources. There were certain courts in provinces that were saying that there was no need for the rollout of infrastructure as it was already there. The maintenance of facilities was an ongoing problem. The Department had provided funds to the regions in order for them to provide intermediary services. There was a plan to have at least 105 intermediaries by the end of the year.

Ms Tsholofelo Moloi, Director, Department of Social Development, acknowledged that there was a shortage of social workers. Her Department had developed a strategy for the recruitment of social workers. A dedicated budget had been set aside to award scholarships as part of the recruitment strategy. It had been agreed that the services of Thuthuzela Care Centres would be linked to the Department of Social Development.

Ms Michael asked if the training for SAPS had been completed.
 
Dr Tertius Geldenhuys, Head of Legislation, SAPS, said that there were two types of training for SAPS officials. Ordinary police officers, to whom crimes would generally be reported, were trained on matters such as preserving a crime scene and securing evidence. SAPS tried to ensure that the basic training was in order. This would continue in future.

Mr Jeffery interrupted and said that Dr Geldenhuys was not responding to the specific question. He asked if SAPS had gazetted a report on the training, six months after the commencement of the Act, as it had been instructed to do, and asked whether Dr Geldenhuys was aware that the Act required specific training. He said that a broad and vague answer that missed the key issues was unacceptable.

Dr Geldenhuys replied that he stood to be corrected, but he was unaware of whether there was a specific clause that required publication about the training in the Government Gazette.

Mr Jeffery said that it appeared that SAPS had not read the Act, and would have to explain why.

Mr Swart asked Dr Geldenhuys to continue his explanation on the various aspects of the training. 

Dr Geldenhuys said that the basic training was compulsory for all police officials. There was then further training for existing police officers who had already undergone training. 5 000 had already been trained. Specialised training for detectives had been brought down to station level. The sexual offences and child care units were fully functioning.

Mr J Van Der Merwe (IFP) said that he was satisfied with the answer from SAPS .

Mr Jeffery said that he was not satisfied. When legislation was passed, it was to be expected that it must be applied immediately. When the Bill leading to this Act was still being considered, there was a debate  whether there was a need for two Registers. The Registrar might want to comment on this in the report to Parliament, which was to be tabled later, and also make recommendations. The report should also deal with whether the funding for the Register had decreased or increased.

Mr Swart asked if there was any specific information that could be provided by the Department concerning human trafficking, under this specific transitional provision.

Adv Du Randt said that the Department did not have this information.

Mr Swart said that there was a document compiled by the Parliamentary Researchers, containing some useful questions that should be submitted to the Department.

Mr M Gungubele (ANC) said that there should be an emphasis on improvement from the Department’s side.

The Chairperson asked that the Department should compile a detailed response to some of the issues that had been raised today.

The meeting was adjourned.









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