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Special courts to tackle sex crimes

Written by Albert Pule
Government is set to open 58 dedicated courts across the country to deal  ith sexual offences.

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe recently said that sexual offences courts would start opening by the middle of the year and should be fully operational by September.

Sites across the country have been identified for these courts.

“Courts such as the one in Palm Ridge [in Alberton] have been identified to host such specialised sexual offences cases, with minor adaptations in line with international standards to provide a victim-friendly environment and CCTV testifying rooms,” said Minister Radebe.

The Minister stressed the need for the specialised courts, saying that government was serious about dealing with the rape of women and children.

The dedicated sexual offences courts were rolled out more than a decade ago but the programme was later discontinued.

“These dedicated courts are necessary. When there are these dedicated courts, the conviction rate goes up but when we stopped them the conviction rate went down,” he said.

The Minister also urged communities to act against violence and abuse against women and children every day and not just when there were campaigns highlighting the issue, such as the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children.

“The scourge of sexual assaults against women and children must be dealt with very firmly and with harsh sentences,” Minister Radebe added.

Department of Justice spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said the sexual offences courts would be located in areas where incidents of sexual abuse were most prevalent.

“We plan to have these courts in the most disadvantaged areas where ... people struggle to access the courts,” he explained.

The new courts will sit in existing courts and will hear all cases of sexual assault, including attacks on lesbians and gays.

In his State of the Nation Address President Jacob Zuma said cases related to sexual offences would be given priority.

“I have directed law enforcement agencies to treat these cases with the utmost urgency and importance,” he said.