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

The sa law reform commission investigated the issue

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The SA Law Reform Commission investigated the issue of child justice, and a Child Justice Bill was introduced into Parliament by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in 2002. The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Constitutional development has requested amendments to the Bill, which has been done, and the Child Justice Bill will most probably be implemented during 2004, after passing through the parliamentary process. The Bill suggests a change to the way in which drug dealing can be dealt with. It emphasises the need to target the syndicates and adults who are usually behind the children’s drug-dealing activities. In the meantime, an interim National Protocol for handling Children Trial emphasises that children should be diverted from the Criminal Justice system where children acknowledge wrongdoing, so as to rehabilitate them through programmes such as the Anti-Drug
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Programme in Pretoria Magistrate’s Court. An Intersectoral Child Justice Steering Committee under the Chair of the Department of Justice, also monitors children awaiting trial and sentenced children in prison and intervenes where necessary. Still, children working with syndicates are more likely to be held in custody while awaiting trial, even if they may act as state witnesses. Where children sell drugs for survival or because of dependency on drugs themselves, the court will convert the trial to a children’s court inquiry at any time before sentencing, even after a conviction. This means that the child can be declared a child in need of care by a children’s court and placed in alternative care by the court, such as in a foster home or a children’s home. Policy and related statutory measures in the Bill have been formulated to reduce the number of child offenders in jail. These alternatives are referred to as diversion - ‘diverting’ the child away from prison, and activities include community service. Such steps are intended to rehabilitate offenders by keeping them in society but serving it in some constructive way. Community service , a sentence requiring the offending child to perform specified community work for a given number of hours over a set period, is currently only available for offenders of 15 years or older. This matches aspects of BCEA provisions regarding child work. A reform school sentence is often the only available sentence in case of serious offences by young children. The SA Law Reform Commission has proposed reducing to 10 years the age limit for all forms of diversion, subject to minimum standards designed to prevent exploitation of children. These standards require that the sentences do not interfere with schooling and that tasks are proportionate to the child’s age and physical and emotional maturity.
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