The application of the Child Care Act in respect of the assessment and sentencing of juvenile offenders

Gildenhuys, Marianne (2002-03)

Thesis (M Social Work)--Stellenbosch University, 2002.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is concerned with children and youths in conflict with the law, who are additionally at risk of becoming or being in need of care. The study eventuated from concern for neglected children and youths from poor, disadvantaged and violent communities in the Western Cape Province, who inevitably lapsed into crime. Child and youth care, including juvenile justice, in South Africa is presently in a process of transformation, managed by the inter-ministerial committee on young people at risk. As an outcome of the transformation of the juvenile justice system, assessment centres were established at juvenile courts. Probation officers were appointed in terms of the Probation Services Act (Act 116 of 1991) to assess arrested children and youths before their first court appearance in view of a suitable awaiting trial placement and possible diversion of the criminal case. The researcher investigated how arrested children and youths, being in need of care, are managed within the criminal justice system. The research study showed that in spite of the implementation of policies and legislation to protect children and youths from detention in prison, the number of children and youths in prisons awaiting trial have steadily increased. A continuous shortage of vacancies in awaiting trial places of safety exists. It has further been established that professionals such as magistrates, prosecutors and probation officers recognize the needs of arrested children and youths who are additionally at risk of being or becoming in need of care. Factors such as the existing lack of vacancies in awaiting trial places of safety however result in children and youths not being protected in terms of care in all instances. The research study also indicated that arrested children and youths who are current subjects of the Child Care Act (Act 74 of 1983) as amended are often not effectively managed within the criminal justice system. A lack of sufficient knowledge of the said Child Care Act by especially prosecutors appears to be a contributing factor. A comprehensive criminal justice system for children and youths in South Africa is being envisaged, as contained in the draft Bill (Bill B), which will enable individualized but holistic services in respect of children and youths in conflict with the law. The role and tasks of probation officers carrying out assessments have as such become a key element in the management of arrested children and youths, as contained in the draft Bill (Bill B). Probation officers therefore playa significant role in advising the court regarding the appropriate management of arrested children and youths who are at risk of becoming or being in need of care.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie het betrekking op kinders en jeudiges in botsing met die gereg, wat bykomend in gevaar is om sorgbehoewend te raak of sorgbehoewend is. Die studie het voortgevloei uit besorgdheid oor verwaarloosde kinders en jeugdiges van arm, agtergeblewe en geweldadige gemeenskappe in die Wes-Kaap Provinsie, wie noodwendig in misdaad verval het. Kinder- en jeugsorg, insluitend jeugreg in Suid-Afrika is tans in 'n proses van transformasie, wat deur die inter-ministeriële komitee vir jong persone in gevaar, bestuur word. As 'n uitkoms van die transformasie van die jeugregsisteem, is asseseringsentrums by jeughowe tot stand gebring. Proefbeamptes is in terme van die Wet op Proefdienste (Wet 116 van 1991) aangestel om gearresteerde kinders en jeugdiges te asseseer voor hulle eerste hofverskyning in die lig van 'n geskikte aanhouding terwyl verhoofafwagtend en moontlike afwending van die kriminele saak. Die navorser het ondersoek ingestel na die wyse waarop gearresteerde kinders en jeugdiges wat sorgbehoewend is, binne die kriminele jeugregstelsel hanteer word. Die navorsingstudie het getoon dat ten spyte van die implementering van beleid en wetgewing om kinders en jeugdiges van aanhouding in gevangenisse te beskerm, die hoeveelheid kinders en jeugdiges verhoorafwagtend in gevangenisse voortdurend toegeneem het. 'n Deurlopende tekort aan vakatures in plekke van veiligheid kom voor. Dit is verder vasgestel dat die behoeftes van gearresteerde kinders en jeugdiges wat bykomend in gevaar is om sorgbehoewend te raak of sorgbehoewend is, deur professionele persone soos landdroste, aanklaers en proefbeamptes erken word. Faktore soos die bestaande tekort aan vakatures in plekke van veiligheid veroorsaak egter dat kinders en jeugdiges nie ten alle tye beskerm word nie. Die navorsingstudie het ook aangedui dat gearresteerde kinders en jeugdiges wat steeds onderhewig is aan die Wet op Kindersorg (Wet 74 van 1983) soos gewysig dikwels nie doeltreffend binne die kriminele jeugregsisteem hanteer word nie. Gebrek aan voldoende kennis van die genoemde Wet op Kindersog deur veral aanklaers, blyk 'n bydraende faktor te wees. 'n Omvattende kriminele jeugregsisteem vir kinders en jeugdiges in Suid-Afrika word beoog, soos vervat in die konsep Wetsontwerp (Wetsontwerp B), wat die geleentheid vir individuele maar holistiese dienste ten opsigte van kinders en jeugdiges in botsing met die gereg sal bied. Die rol en take van proefbeamptes wat assesserings uitvoer het as sulks 'n sleutel element geword in die hantering van gearresteerde kinders en jeugdiges, soos vervat in die konsep Wetsontwerp (Wetsontwerp B). Proefbeamptes speel gevolglik 'n belangwekkende rol ten einde die hof te adviseer oor die gepaste hantering van gearresteerde kinders en jeudiges wat in gevaar is om sorgbehoewend te raak of sorgbehoewend is.

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