Amendments to the Child Justice Act, which seek to increase the minimum age of the criminal capacity of children who commit offences, is one step closer to coming into force.

The Act, recently signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, will only be operational once regulations, directives, and guidelines have been developed and finalised by the various departments involved.

The Act previously said a child under the age of ten, who commits an offence, lacks criminal capacity and cannot be prosecuted. The law has now increased that age to 12 and unless the State can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a child between the ages of 12 and 14, who commits an offence, has capacity, that child cannot be prosecuted, however, will be referred for possible intervention.

The law now says a child in this age category, does not have an appreciation of his or her actions. The State also has to now consider educational level, cognitive abilities, domestic and environmental circumstances, and maturity.

The National Prosecuting Authority’s Children’s units’ Advocate Vuyokazi Ketelo says, “Capacity is one of the key factors that our courts consider whether a person is culpable of committing a crime. When a child is alleged to have committed an offence, that child must have an appreciation of what she has done and the consequences of what she has done. This means that the child must be in a position to differentiate between right and wrong.

One child right’s organisation Molo Songololo is happy with the latest developments.

Director Patric Solomons says the new law gives children a chance to avoid the criminal justice system.

Solomons says, “The new amendments, of course, make specific provisions for the courts to be able to prove criminal capacity of the child, that is children between 12 and 14 years of age. The court will have to make certain specific considerations around the child’s circumstances, capacity, educational capacity, understanding whether the child knows he or she committed an office, the seriousness of the offence, the impact on victims and community before the child will be prosecuted. Very important provision for the child.”

“We are very happy with the amendments and pleased that responsibility is for the courts to determine whether children between 12 and 14 can be held criminally responsible,” added Solomons.

The Amendments to the Child Justice Act was signed into law along with a number of other acts by Ramaphosa last week including the Promotion of Access to Information Amendment (PAIA).

The PAIA Act amends the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000 and aims to provide for the recording, preservation and disclosure of information in relation to the private funding of political parties and independent candidates.

It forms part of the broader reforms in political party funding in order to provide transparency on who provides donations to political parties and independent candidates, which aims to ensure that heads of political parties create and keep records of any donation exceeding the prescribed threshold of R100 000.

The records must be made available quarterly to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Donors must also disclose the donations to the IEC within 30 days and would be disclosed to Parliament by the IEC.

In the video below, the Constitutional Court rules that political parties should disclose private funders: 

The Presidency’s statement regarding the laws: