SAPS Programmes Addressing Violence Against Children: briefing by SAPS

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IMPROVEMENT OF THE QUALITY OF LIFE AND STATUS OF CHILDREN, YOUTH AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITES JOINT MONITORING COMMITTEE

JOINT MONITORING COMMITTEE ON IMPROVEMENT OF THE QUALITY OF LIFE AND STATUS OF CHILDREN, YOUTH AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
27 October 2006
SAPS PROGRAMMES ADDRESSING VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN: BRIEFING BY SAPS

Chairperson:
Ms W Newhoudt-Druchen (ANC)

Documents handed out:
South African Police Service Powerpoint briefing to JMC [available on 2 October 2006]
South African Police Service 2005/2006 Annual Report [Extracted from the Annual Report document]: Part1 & Part2
Report of the Public Hearing on the Right to Basic Education
Strategic Objective Grant Agreement No 674-0328 Between the United States of America And the Republic of South Africa for Increased Access to Quality Education and Training  [email info@pmg.org.za for document]

SUMMARY
The Deputy National Commissioner and her team took members through their programmes aimed at addressing violence against children in South Africa. The Western Cape provided a sound example of re-integrating missing children or children who have been living on the streets into families and communities through social crime prevention partnerships. South African Police Services (SAPS) had established a skills development facility in Woodstock. The families of the children have been traced with the assistance of Social Services and reintegration models had been developed. The main focus was on continuing and improving interventions with regard to children being abused for purposes of sexual exploitation, trafficking or crime. Partnerships with other service providers were being investigated and set up. Special units had been set up, and a number of members in the units had been trained. SAPS participated in a Safe Schools Programme. the Questions by members addressed the lack of trafficking laws, media reports that violence in schools was increasing, the apparently low conviction rates on sexual offences, particularly against minors, diversion programmes, the setting up of the Registry to assist child protection, and statistics and reintegration of homeless children. The Committee wished to invite the National Prosecuting Authority and the Department of Justice to address it on some issues raised. The Human Rights Commission would also brief the Committee early in 2007.
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MINUTES
Ms M Singh, Deputy National Commissioner, South African Police Service (SAPS) highlighted the SAPS programmes aimed at addressing violence against children in South Africa. The presentation covered programmes against child abuse and neglect, with specific focus on homeless children and child labour. Violence against children included sexual violence, domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse. The Western Cape provided a sound example of re-integrating missing children or children who had been living on the streets into families and communities through social crime prevention partnerships. SAPS had established a skills development facility in Woodstock. The families of the children had been traced with the assistance of Social Services. In Gauteng, the Sunnyside and Hillbrow police station had provided a separate model for re-integration. The child labour action programme was led by the Department of Labour. SAPS’s main focus was on continuing and improving interventions with regard to children being used by adults in committing crimes, or for commercial sexual exploitation and child trafficking. Anti-rape Strategy Guidelines had been compiled, and aimed an analyzing the factors that contributed to rape and mobilising partnerships with other service providers to address contributory factors, such as environmental and social issues. Communities were encouraged to be actively involved in preventing sexual violence against children. Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units have been established.882 FCS members completed their Investigators course and 837 completed the Detective Course. 418 SAPS members and 32 prosecutors attended a Child Pornography workshop. SAPS provided support to the Department of Education with the Safe School Programme, which was started in 2000. Research had found that violence in schools is fueled by peer pressure. Various SAPS programmes had been established to deal with it and children were encouraged to report bullying at schools.

Discussion
Mr A Madella (ANC) commented that he was worried by the crime statistics. He commented that the number of convictions indicated that that only about 10% of cases reaching the Court were successfully prosecuted. He wanted to know what was preventing the police from achieving a higher conviction rate, and if evidence was the problem.

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) asked if the FCS unit was separated from the police station or if it was integrated with the police. She commented that in some cases a child offender was made to apologise to the victim for the crime committed. She wanted to know what process took place when a child had been molested.

Superintendent A Pienaar, Senior Superintendent, SAPS, told the committee that the statistics included adults and children. Cases were referred to the prosecutors in court. Once the docket had gone through to the court, SAPS had no further control over it. It often happened that a victim, having had the matter postponed on several occasions, would tell the prosecutor that he or she wanted to withdraw the charges. This was particularly the case with teenagers. The offender would then be acquitted because the prosecution would be withdrawn.. Unfortunately SAPS just had to accept the decision. If the offender was a child, the case might go to the Children’s Court, or the offender might be placed in a diversion programme, which could include apologizing to the victim.

The Chairperson asked that a list of the locations of all the FCS units be provided to the Committee.

Spt Pienaar replied that the FCS unit provided the same support as the CPU. A contact list of all the FCS units was available on the SAPS website.

Ms H Weber (DA) enquired the success rate of the integration of street children into families. She asked if the FCS replaced the Child Protection Unit (CPU). She enquired if the child abuse and the older persons Registry was the same. She asked if Child Trafficking is a problem.

Spt Pienaar stated that according to Section 42 of Child Care Act 1983, child neglect and abuse had to be reported to social services. The Child Protection Registry was not yet up and running and would fall under the Department of Social Services. The problem with child trafficking is that there was as yet no law that made it illegal. There was currently a task team looking at the proposed legislation to criminalise child trafficking.

Mr M Moss (ANC) wanted to know what the Committee could do to assist the SAPS with the task. He enquired how successful SAPS had been in removing children from the street. He wanted to know what other departments SAPS would work with, besides the Departments of Education and Social Services. He suggested that SAPS find out more about the previous mayor’s programme to take children off the streets. He wanted to know if it would not be possible to implement this programme all over the country. He also asked what role the SAPS plays in removing disabled and mentally ill people from the street.

Ms Susan Pienaar, Assistant Commissioner & Head: Social Crime Prevention, SAPS, told members that there were examples of specific diversion programmes for young offenders, but all would perhaps be better institutionalized  when the Children’s Act was put into force. She commented that there had been moves to make police stations more accessible to people with disabilities. All new police stations being built, were accessible to people in wheelchairs.

She stated that the Committee could assist precisely by continuing to ask these types of questions. SAPS had a number of partnerships with other departments and worked extensively with other NGOs such as Childline. Partnerships were created with businesses in the area through the Community Policing Forum.

Ms M Mngadi, Director: Crime Prevention, SAPS told the committee that there was no reliable database of homeless children. The Western Cape had implemented a system of tracking homeless children. In the last year 74 children were reported missing in the Western Cape. By May 2006, 66 of the children reported missing had been reintegrated with families, 6 were not found and 3 were found dead. The migration of street children from one province to another made it difficult to track the children.

The Chairperson wanted clarity on the law regarding trafficking of children. She enquired if the police worked with airlines to identify children who may be trafficked. She wanted to know if all schools were included in the  Safer Schools programme.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) enquired if there was any interaction with the Department with regard to safe transport for school children to distant schools.


Ms S Pienaar, Assistant Commissioner, SAPS, reported that a handbook had been developed for schools to target violence. The handbook dealt with various issues that might lead to violence at schools. The police could not necessarily help with transport to and from schools, but they could raise awareness about areas that could be dangerous to learners. All provinces formed part of the Safer Schools programme.

Mr A Madella (ANC) commented that he recently came across a case where a gangster raped a child repeatedly in Blue Downs. Once the matter was reported to the police, the gangster threatened to kill the child if the charges were not withdrawn. This threat was also reported to the police, but nothing was done about it. The child’s aunt and the child were shot and the child subsequently died. The investigating officer pointed out to the family that nothing could be done about the rape charge as the complainant was no longer able to testify. He enquired if this case could still be prosecuted.

Spt Pienaar advised that if a person had not testified in a case and subsequently died the charges against the accused would be withdrawn for lack of evidence, and since, according to the Constitution,  the accused had the right to question the complainant.

he Deputy Commissioner added that in this case, the rape charge would no longer stand, but a murder charge would be laid.

Mr M Moss (ANC) enquired if SAPS interacted with any other Department that formed part of the Safety and Security Cluster.

Ms S Pienaar, Assistant Commissioner for SAPS replied that the police did work with the Security Cluster

Ms J Chalmers (ANC) enquired if there had been a significant increase in child on child violence.

Ms Weber (DA) wanted to know if there was already legislation that a charge of rape, once laid, could not be withdrawn.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) wanted to know if there was any interaction with traditional leaders.

Ms S Pienaar replied that in the Eastern Cape traditional leaders had been trained on the legal aspects of a case.
 
The Chairperson commented that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development should be called before the committee to clarify some of the issues raised by the members.

Committee Business
The Chairperson reminded Members that before a decision was taken on two reports referred to the Committee the Human Rights Commission would brief the Committee. This had been arranged for early 2007

The meeting was adjourned.

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