Sidney Frankel: Court ruling welcomed – Teddy Bear Foundation/CALS

Judge says law must encourage prosecution of nefarious offences and support victims in coming forward, no matter how late

Organisations welcome judgment in Sidney Frankel sexual assault case

19 June 2017

The Teddy Bear Foundation and Centre for Applied Legal Studies today welcomed the judgment by the South Gauteng High Court in a case brought against accused sexual offender the late Sidney Frankel. The application challenged a section of the Criminal Procedure Act which gives the state a maximum of 20 years to initiate prosecution for a crime of sexual assault while there is no such time limit for the crime of rape.

In a landmark judgment, Acting Judge Hartford today ruled that the prescription periods for sexual offences set out in the Criminal Procedure Act are invalid and that there should no longer be time limits for prosecuting these serious crimes, saying at paragraph 68:

“The law must encourage the prosecution of these nefarious offences, which are a cancer in South African society, and must support victims in coming forward, no matter how late in the day. The law should not smother a victim’s ability to bring sexual offenders to book, as it presently does.”

The Court has suspended the declaration of invalidity for 18 months to give Parliament time to amend the relevant legislation. This judgment will now need to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

The Teddy Bear Foundation, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits University, entered the matter as a ‘friend of the court’ earlier this year to assist the Court with this important issue and support the applicants.

“This is a significant step towards ensuring that the criminal justice system is responsive to all victims of sexual offences no matter when they come forward,” says Sheena Swemmer, attorney at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies. “The judgment recognises the devastating effects of sexual violence in our country on children and adults; women and men.”

“It is critical that victims of sexual abuse be treated fairly and equally before the law,” says Shaheda

Omar, Clinical Director of the Teddy Bear Foundation. “This judgment acknowledges the deep trauma that sexual violence of any kind may have on victims and the Court has now demonstrated its understanding that the process of disclosure is in itself painful, complicated, lengthy and takes great bravery.”

Issued by Shaheda Omar, Clinical Director: Teddy Bear Foundation, and Sheena Swemmer, Attorney: Centre for Applied Legal Studies, 19 June 2017