11 February 2019

South Africa: Sex Crimes - Prosecutors' Job Performance Targets Hinder Justice

opinion

Shamila Batohi took office only on 1 February 2019, but already the nation has high hopes and expectations of what the National Director of Public Prosecutions will achieve. Most public conversations on this topic have centred on corruption and addressing #StateCapture, but what can a new NDPP mean for ordinary South Africans?

The National Prosecuting Authority has long boasted of achieving increasingly higher conviction rates on prosecuted sexual offences. Conviction rates are included in the Annual Report presented to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services.

In 2018, a rosy picture of a conviction rate of 72.7% was presented for sexual offences in 2017/2018 year. This was met with great enthusiasm from MPs and the media. However, it is always important to read the small print. This shows that the 72.7% conviction rate was, in fact, for only 5,004 convictions -- a small figure compared with the number of sexual offences reported each year, which has averaged about 50,000 a year for the past five years, according to police crime statistics.

An important piece of this puzzle is to understand that conviction rates are calculated based on the number of cases referred for trial (prosecuted) by the National...

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