New Child Justice Act in South Africa
Jun 04, 2009
After six years of debate and reworking, the Child Justice Bill was signed into law by South African president Kgalema Motlanthe on 11 May 2009. In an effort to both humanize the juvenile justice system and to protect the rights of children in conflict with the law, the new legislation raises the minimum age of child offenders and provides for several diversion options.
According to the opening paragraph, one objective of the new Child Justice Act is to “entrench the notion of restorative justice in the criminal justice system in respect of children who are in conflict with the law.” The legislation goes on to define restorative justice as:
“an approach to justice that aims to involve the child offender, the victim, the families concerned and community members to collectively identify and address harms, needs and obligations through accepting responsibility, making restitution, taking measures to prevent a recurrence of the incident and promoting reconciliation.”
Diversion alternatives include both family group conferencing and victim offender mediation. According to the “minimum standards for diversion options” a diversion programme must among other things:
- impart useful skills;
- include a restorative justice element which aims at healing relationships, including the relationship with the victim;
- include an element which seeks to ensure that the child understands the impact of his or her behaviour on others, including the victims of the offence, and may include compensation or restitution;
For those young offenders who do go through the child justice court, the Act provides for both community and “restorative justice” sentences. These include referring the case to a family group conference, victim-offender mediation, or “any other restorative justice process which is in accordance with the definition of restorative justice.”
The Child Justice Act will come into effect in April 2010. It is available for download from the Child Justice Alliance.
Read recent news article about the Child Justice Act:
• An Act of Compassion by Don Pinnock in the Mail and Guardian from June 3.
• UNICEF welcomes signing of Child Justice Bill into Law