The Jurisdiction on Regional Courts Bill was adopted with amendments. The Committee then held an informal discussion about the Child Justice Bill focusing on the issue of diversion.
Adoption of Jurisdiction on Regional Courts Bill
The Chair noted that even though the Committee agreed with the Bill, some Members were concerned about its implementation. He assured Members that this concern would be raised in the House.
The Chair asked if any Members were opposed to the amendments made to Clauses 1-9. Members answered that they were not. The Bill was adopted with amendments.
Informal Discussion: Child Justice Bill
The Chair referred to the Child Justice Bill and reminded the Committee that all children would be considered for diversion unless the case involved murder or rape. Diversion would not be considered for children who committed these serious crimes, unless there were exceptional circumstances. They would also have to look at the preconditions of the case to consider the child for diversion.
Mr J Jeffrey (ANC) felt that the state had the capacity to deal with these cases, however, preliminary enquiries were not just about diversion, they also involved assessing the child’s age and his/her placement. He wanted to include a section in the part of the Bill that looked at preliminary enquiries so that the Committee could ensure that when a child was kept in custody, it was warranted.
He stated that there was evidence that showed that children did not have the capacity to understand what they were doing. The Committee had to decide whether the maximum age at which the child would be considered for diversion would be twelve or ten years old. It would be useful to consider whether the child understood the crime that he/she committed. Also, the Committee had to take into account that children were maturing faster these days. The Committee was placing more duty on the courts to establish the child’s capacity.
Mr S Swart (ACDP) warned that one should be careful when considering the age of ten years, as there were gangs in developing countries that were aware of what diversion was and were using young children to perform crimes.
Adv L Joubert (DA) was concerned that the Committee did not have enough clinical evidence on which to base its decision.
Mr Jeffery suggested that the Committee hold a meeting with researchers who had the relevant information to discuss this particular issue. He thought that the Committee needed to hear non-government organisations comments on the subject as well.
The Committee agreed and the meeting was adjourned.
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