20 June 2017

South Africa: Victory for Sexual Assault Victims

Pretoria — Victims of sexual assault offences dating back more than 20 years might now feel encouraged to report their cases.

Thanks to the ruling by Acting Judge Claire Hartford of the Johannesburg High Court who declared Section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act unconstitutional.

As it was, the Act held that crimes of rape may be prosecuted at any stage, but victims of sexual abuse crimes had to lay charges within 20 years.

But the ruling removes the prescription bar set on sexual assault cases.

Acting Judge Hartford made the declaration when she was ruling on the so-called Frankel Eight case.

The eight men and women had filed a civil lawsuit in 2013 against billionaire businessperson and socialite Sidney Frankel. The group accuses Frankel, who died in April, of sexually abusing them as children.

The court has ordered that the judgment first go through the Constitutional Court, which can make minor changes. This will then go to the National Assembly which will have 18 months to amend the Criminal Procedure Act.

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