Research report - National Child Labour Action Programme for South Africa (1).doc

If one assumes each arrest accounts for one child

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involved in crime in South Africa poses an extremely serious problem. If one assumes each arrest accounts for one child, then 1.3% of South African children from age 7 to 17 are in conflict with the law. The Western Cape has the highest number of youth offenders apprehended followed by Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The provinces with the highest percentage of child arrests relative to the number of children in the province are the Western Cape (3.9%), the Northern Cape (3.3%) and Gauteng (2.2%). In the costing of the Child Justice Bill it has been projected that the breakdown of child cases by crime category will be: economic crimes 62% of child crime; aggressive crimes 32%; sexual crimes 2.5%; and narcotic-related crimes 2%. There were 4 111 children in custody on 31 March 2002, 56% who were unsentenced (Table 2). The age profile of children sentenced to imprisonment shows that by far the majority are 16 and 17 years old. The very high numbers of 18, 19 and 20 year olds also reflects the high proportion of this age group engaged in criminal activities and convicted, many of whom may have entered into crime when they were below the age of 18. Causes of crime can be related to socio- economic conditions prevailing throughout the country, with the high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality providing conditions conducive to criminal activities that involve relief from both poverty and boredom. One channel through which much crime involving children is directed is through youth gangs. It has been estimated that in the Western Cape alone there are more than 80 000 gang members, with more than half in the age range of 13 to 19. A high correlation between gang membership and involvement in crime in the province is also likely. For example, victims of crime in the Western Cape perceived 41% of burglaries and 40% of murders to have been gang-related. No research results are available on the proportion of children involved in crime who have been used by others in that regard. It is likely, however, to be significant. In provinces where gang-related activities are prevalent many children are likely to be used by others, sometimes by fellow children, to commit gang-related crimes. Most policy measures addressing illegal work-related activities are part of the Department of Justice’s Table 2. Juveniles in custody as at 31 March 2002 As at 31 March 2002 Age Unsentenced Sentenced Total 7-13 11 7 18 14 166 29 195 15 370 172 542 16 790 514 1 304 17 985 1 067 2 052 Sub-total 2 322 1 789 4 111 18 4 558 3 347 7 905 19 3 738 4 541 8 279 20 3 234 4 818 8 052 Sub-total 11 530 12 706 24 236 Total 13 852 14 495 28 347
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general strategies for dealing with children involved in criminal activities. These include distinguishing between activities where children are victims (such as most cases of prostitution, trafficking and other forms of abuse) and those where they have been perpetrators or intermediaries. Where children are the perpetrators, a programme of diversion is being put in place. Diversion is where alternatives are found to the jailing of children, one example being community service.
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