GroundUp (Cape Town)

South Africa: Specialised Sexual Offences Court Coming to Khayelitsha

GroundUp has learned that Khayelitsha will be getting a specialised Sexual Offences Court. Government announced that 22 new Sexual Offenses Courts are to be set up by the end of 2013.

Regional Head of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in the Western Cape Advocate Hisham Mohamed said, "There has never been a specialised sexual offences court in Khayelitsha before."

Sexual Offences Courts were first introduced at the Wynberg Regional Court, Cape Town, in 1993. The pilot proved a success with a conviction rate of 80% over a period of one year. By the end of 2005, there were 74 Sexual Offences Courts countrywide. Despite their proven record they were scrapped because of restricted space capacity in the courts and the lack of trained personnel.

Jennifer Williams, Director of Women's Legal Centre, said: "These courts will be set up for two purposes. [To have] trained and professional staff who will be able to gather evidence and deal with all cases related to sexual offences, and to create an infrastructure where witnesses don't have to sit close to the perpetrator. Making witnesses feel safe and having professional social workers present will make the experience less traumatic."

Addressing the media last week, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, Jeff Radebe, said: "We believe that these courts will help address the growing challenge of sexual offences in the country, particularly against vulnerable groups."

"Out of the 22 courts that are to be set up, eight are going to be in the Western Cape," said Advocate Mohamed.

Some areas in the Western Cape set to benefit from these sexual offences courts are: Knysna, George, Paarl, Parow, Atlantis, Wynberg, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha.

The police in the Western Cape released a report as part of their Women's Month Programme listing Khayelitsha as fifth in the Western Cape for the highest rape incidents.

Advocate Mohamed said that the courts should be in operation in three months.

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