The Child Justice Amendment Act has been signed into law.
Parliament passed the Child Justice Amendment Bill and sent it for assent in November 2019.
The national assembly (NA) passed the bill and sent it to the national council of provinces (NCOP) for concurrence in November 2018.
The bill was tabled in parliament at the beginning of October 2018.
The bill lapsed at the end of the 5th parliament but was revived by the NCOP in October 2019.
It aimed to increase the minimum age of criminal capacity of a child from ten years to twelve years.
The bill also sought to remove the requirement to prove criminal capacity for purposes of diversion and preliminary inquiries.
During deliberations, the portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development introduced amendments to the bill.
Clause 15 stipulates that a prosecutor may divert a matter in the case of a child 12 years or older but under the age of 14 years if he/she is satisfied that the child will benefit from diversion.
In cases where prosecutors and inquiry magistrates hold the view that a child is unlikely to benefit from diversion, or if diversion is inappropriate, the child may be referred to a probation officer to be dealt with as a child that lacks criminal capacity in terms of section 9 of the act.
A new clause 20 stipulated that the above-mentioned provisions also apply to child justice courts.
The select committee on security and justice passed the bill without amendments.
The act aims to amend the Child Justice Act, 2008, so as to:
• amend a deﬁnition;
• further regulate the minimum age of criminal capacity;
• further regulate the provisions relating to the decision to prosecute a child who is 12 years or older but under the age of 14 years;
• further regulate the proof of criminal capacity;
• further regulate the assessment report by the probation officer;
• further regulate the factors to be considered by a prosecutor when diverting a matter before a preliminary inquiry;
• further regulate the factors to be considered by an inquiry magistrate when diverting a matter at a preliminary inquiry;
• further regulate the orders that may be made at the preliminary inquiry;
• amend wording in order to facilitate the interpretation of a phrase;
• further regulate the factors to be considered by a judicial officer when diverting a matter in a child justice court; and
• provide for matters connected therewith.
The act comes into effect on a date still to be determined by the president.
Different provisions of the act may come into effect on different dates.