RSJC Campaign. 23/5/2017

Published by RSJC

 A great milestone in addressing the high rates of rape in our country has been achieved

The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign went to Parliament today to fight for courts to be set up exclusively for hearing sexual offences cases rather than allowing for a hybrid model, which does not allow for courts to exclusively deal with sexual offences cases.

Government agreed to take steps towards achieving the full implementation of these court services over time, to the maximum of its available resources and using all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures.

Kathleen Dey, director of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust says: “These courts offer a particular kind of support to victims of sexual offences whose ability to testify in these cases can easily be undermined because of the excessive trauma they experience when remembering and recounting the events of the rape. Court personnel and officials in these courts are specially trained in dealing with these complicated matters and the court infrastructure and services are set up specifically for sexual offences cases. Anything that undermines the specialist nature of these courts is a step backwards on what the state has promised.”

The law was amended by the Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act 43 of 2013 to make provision under section 55A for the establishment of sexual offences courts exclusively for the purposes of the trial of any person or other proceedings arising out of sexual offences. The Judicial Matters Amendment Bill 14 of 2016 then proposed the removal of the word “exclusively” to allow for hybrid courts, which will not exclusively hear sexual offences cases.

Last week we met with the Deputy Minister of Justice, Min John Jeffery, and seven Regional Courts Presidents to discuss concerns raised by magistrates regarding limited resources for implement exclusive courts. After the meeting, we provided the Deputy Minister with a memorandum and we proposed possible amendments to the current drafting of the Bill in order to aim to address some of the concerns raised in our meeting with the Regional Courts Presidents.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee met today to hear the feedback from the Deputy Minister. At this meeting, amended drafting for the Bill was presented, which provides for a definition of “sexual offences courts” protecting the exclusivity of court rolls and the provision of services, facilities and personnel, while also addressing the concerns raised by the Regional Court Presidents.

This is a great victory for rape survivors and will ensure a legislative framework that aims to protect survivors. We valued our engagement with the Regional Court Presidents as well as the Department of Justice. We look forward to comment on the draft regulations, to be released shortly, in order to ensure victims of these crimes are supported by the criminal justice system in order to ensure the least amount of secondary victimisation and high conviction rates.

Jeanne Bodenstein is advocacy coordinator of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust’s Rape Survivor’s Justice Campaign.