Partners:             Children’s Rights Project, Community Law Centre, UWC

                        NICRO, Western Cape Provincial Office

                        Institute for Criminology, UCT






This submission consists of two parts. The first section consists of the background to SAYStOP and a general comment on young sex offenders and the Child Justice Bill. The second part consists of specific comments on sections in the Bill.






SAYStOP was formed in 1997 for the purpose of seeking innovative and effective interventions to treat and manage young sex offenders with the aim of preventing a pattern of deviant behaviour from being established and decreasing the possibility of further offending.


It was of concern to a number of individuals in the Western Cape that there was an increase in the cases involving children who commit sexual offences and despite charges being laid cases were not being prosecuted. The reason for this it seemed was that a number of cases were regarded as experimental and in other cases the charges were withdrawn due to the young age of the child alleged to have committed the offence or the relationship between the child and the victim.


This results in children not being held accountable for their actions and returned to the community without any referral to a programme that would assist them to understand and change their abusive behaviour.


As a result the SAYStOP project has developed a programme that can be used to divert children from the criminal justice system or used as an alternative sentence. The programme is particularly beneficial as it provides constructive alternatives to existing sentencing options and by diverting children it holds them responsible and accountable while attempting to address the reasons for the offending behaviour and potentially provide an opportunity for reintegration into the community. 


The project partners with the State in so far as the service providers i.e. facilitators of the programme are probation officers in the employ of the Provincial Department of Social Services. These probation officers are then trained by the SAYStOP project and after the training they continue to receive mentoring services and follow up site visits to assist them in their facilitating. The SAYStOP programme also offers a telephonic advice service and a newsletter to keep the facilitators updated on developments.


The facilitators run groups of children referred to the programme throughout the Western Cape and the programme has recently been extended to the Eastern Cape as well. The programme has received numerous requests from Gauteng, Northern Province and the Northern Cape for the programme to be extended to those areas because of the lack of services and interventions available for young sex offenders and the obvious need for them.


Children who attend the programme are selected on a number of criteria[1]:



The programme consists of 10 sessions usually run once a week for 2 hours at a time. As stated, some groups have been adapted because of geographical difficulties associated with travelling to one place for a ten-week period.



General Comment


Why intervene with young sex offenders?


There is a definite need to focus on the offender to try and redress the power imbalance that more often than not causes violence to be perpetrated against women. It is also argued that interventions with young offenders are successful as these interventions occur during a time when the child’s personality, attitudes and beliefs are still in their formative stages and can be altered where there are serious behavioural problems.


Who are young sex offenders? It is noted that there is a range of types of children who display sexually deviant behaviour. Friedrich explains:

“ Some children who are called sexually aggressive may not even be intrusive with other children but are simply reacting to their own victimisation in a compulsive, self-stimulating manner. Other sexually aggressive children may engage in very extensive but largely mutual interaction with other children, typically other sexually abused children. Finally, there are sexually aggressive children who truly are intrusive and coercive, but they are quite different from children who are simply reactive to their sexual abuse.”[2]

It is therefore important not to simply generalise when speaking of young sex offenders, but to realise there are varying degrees and classes of offending of this nature.


Likewise, there are differing motives behind children who are sexually aggressive and Araji explores these as follows:[3]


It is therefore evident that interventions are paramount in the management of these types of offenders.


As far as the effectiveness of managing serious juvenile offenders is concerned it has been said that a purely punitive approach discounts advances made in the area of treatment[4]. According to Lipsey, “ it is no longer constructive for researchers, practitioners, and policy makers to argue about whether delinquency treatment and rehabilitative approaches work. As a generality, treatment clearly works. We must get on with the business of developing and identifying the treatment models that will be most effective and providing them to the juveniles that will benefit”[5]


In relation to serious and violent juvenile offenders, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Study Group on Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders has reached certain conclusions and key findings in expanding its knowledge about such offenders and determining which types of interventions can reduce their level of offending[6]. These include[7]:




How intervening with young sex offenders impacts on the efforts to prevent violence against women


SAYStOP is a programme for young sex offenders. The focus is on the offender and not the victim. As such, the young offenders participating in the programme, thus far almost exclusively males, have not necessarily only committed a sexual offence against a women or girl child, but can have offended against a member of their own sex. However, it is generally recognised that most instances of sexual assault are committed against women or girls.


Pickup argues that gender analysis of human development indicates that one of the main causes of violence against women lies in the unequal powers relationship between women and men that entrenches male dominance over women[8]. She looks at a number of strategies to combat and challenge violence against women including direct support to survivors of violence, challenging attitudes and beliefs and challenging the State’s responses to violence against women.


One of her strategies is challenging violent men. She notes, however, that mainstream development and humanitarian organisations have not tended to work with men and resist this idea for a number of reasons[9]. These include the fact that there are limited resources available for violence against women and these should not be used on the perpetrators but rather the survivors. Likewise, women activists and gender and development policy-makers are reluctant to dilute the political power of their focus on women.


The reason given for developing strategies to engage male perpetrators is that most forms of violence against women will not end until men change[10]. It is argued that by directly challenging the behaviour of violent men, and ensuring that men and boys are encouraged to reject violence, the goal of achieving safety for women can be reached[11].


The Child Justice Bill


It is submitted that a separate child justice system for children in trouble with the law is long overdue. Children are a vulnerable group of persons in society and the Constitution[12] has identified them as in need of special protection. The Bill is aimed at protecting the rights of children accused of committing crimes as well as regulating the system whereby a child is dealt with and ensuring that the roles and responsibilities of all those involved in the process are clearly defined in order to provide effective implementation. The effect of the Bill being adopted as legislation will be to revolutionise the criminal justice system in South Africa in as far as it affects children in conflict with the law. The Child Justice Bill creates a specialised criminal procedure system designed to expeditiously manage young offenders in a co-operative and holistic manner. The various facets of the Bill are interconnected and are co-dependant in a way that ensures maximised service delivery to children by the State and civil society.


SAYStOP is particularly encouraged by the inclusion of provisions for assessment and diversion. These are practices that are of paramount importance in the process whereby proper interventions and treatments for young offenders are identified and put into operation. As a result the Bill introduces a child justice system aimed at ensuring that children who are capable of being diverted away from the system are, and that children who are serious offenders and against whom the community needs to be protected are dealt with accordingly. This accords with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which emphasises the fact that the best interests of the child need to be balanced against the interests of the community to be safe and secure. While ensuring that a child’s sense of dignity and self-worth are recognised, the Bill also provides for mechanisms that ensure that a child respects the rights of others. In this respect the formal introduction of diversion, and the underlying principles of restorative justice, into our child justice system is very exciting and encompasses the ultimate goal of achieving a system that allows child offenders to participate in a meaningful process of recognising their actions, making amends for them and preventing re-offending.  SAYStOP supports the inclusion of diversion in the Bill.


In addition, the delays and abuses that systematically occur in the present system can be avoided by the adoption of the clauses in the Bill that provide for time periods in which certain procedures must be completed and that set out minimum standards for the treatment of children who are arrested, detained and pass through the criminal justice process.  SAYStOP supports these sections.




We agree with and support the following provisions contained in the present Bill and submit that they should be included in the final legislation. However, this does not mean that we are not in agreement with most other provisions in the Bill, we merely wish to highlight those of particular relevance and importance to young sex offenders.









·        Section 70 – postponement or suspension. However it is submitted that section 93(3)(j) of the Cabinet’s version be included in the present section, which reads:

“ Any other condition appropriate to the circumstances of the child and in keeping with the principles of this Act, which promotes the child’s reintegration into society.”

It is submitted that this provision allows for innovative and individualised responses to children’s behaviour and is in keeping with the objectives and principles of the Bill.


There are certain provisions that we submit are problematic for one reason or another. These are as follows:


Definition of “appropriate adult”

It is submitted that this does not make sense in that a primary caregiver necessarily is a factual custodian and is, in most instances, also a member of the child’s family.


Definition of diversion

It is submitted that it is confusing to define diversion as “ diversion of a child”. It is submitted that it would be best to define it as “referral of a child”. In addition, the terminology “ to the informal procedures established by Chapter 5” is also confusing as this refers to the preliminary inquiry. Perhaps it would be best to state, “ to the informal options established in chapter 6 by means of the procedures established in chapter 5”.


Age estimation and determination

In the Cabinet’s version of the Bill the provisions relating to age estimation and age determination were contained in the same chapter as criminal capacity. It is submitted that this was a logical approach as both issues deal with the age of a child and questions on age usually arise at the outset of a particular matter and so a section at the beginning of the Bill on this, would make sense. In addition, there was a clear grouping of all the responsibilities and powers of the various role-players that created a holistic and easy to follow picture of how age should be estimated and determined. However, the present Bill has moved the sections dealing with age estimation and age determination to various parts of the Bill and so it is now quite difficult to read these sections without having to move from place to place



Chapter 11 – Monitoring of child justice


The original SALC draft Bill had extensive provisions regulating the monitoring of the Bill. These are now relegated to the regulations. It is submitted that the monitoring provisions should be reinstated in the Bill. On account of the various number of government departments that have responsibilities under this piece of legislation, the real possibility for violation and infringement of children’s rights that can occur in the system and the critical scrutiny of the general public towards the criminal justice system as a whole, it is desirable that proper monitoring systems be in place immediately and that they are included in the primary legislation to ensure the highest form of accountability.

[1] Ehlers, L. and van der Sandt, T. South African Young Sex Offenders Manual, 2001, p. 6

[2] Friedrich, W.N. in Araji, S.K. Sexually Aggressive Children: Coming to Understand Them, Sage Publications, 1997, p. xiv

[3] Araji, op cit, p. 43-44

[4] Kempf-Leonard, K. and Tracy, P.E. “ The Gender Effect among Serious, Violent and Chronic Juvenile Offenders”, in Muraskin, R. It’s a Crime, Prentice Hall, 2000, p. 472

[5] Lipsey, M. “Juvenile delinquency treatment: A meta-analytic inquiry in the variability of effects”, in Cook, T.A., Cooper, H., Cordray, D.S., Hartman, H., Hedges, L.V., Light, R.J., Louis, T.A., Mosleller, F. (eds.) Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders, Sage Publications, 1992, p. 85

[6] Loeber, R. and Farrington, D.P. (eds.), Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders: Risk Factors and Successful Interventions, Sage Publications, 1998

977[7] Loeber and Farrington, op cit, p.xix - xxv

[8] Pickup, F. Ending Violence Against Women, Oxfam, 2001, p. 19

[9] Pickup, op cit, p. 204

[10] Pickup, op cit, p. 203

[11] Pickup, op cit, p. 201

[12] Act 108 of 1996