Victory for victims: Expiry date for sexual offences quashed

FILE: The South Gauteng High Court has ruled section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act unconstitutional and invalid. This means sexual assaults can be prosecuted even if the crimes were committed over 20 years ago. Photo: pixabay

JOHANNESBURG - It’s a victory for sexual abuse victims.

There’s no longer an expiry date on prosecuting sexual offences in court.

The South Gauteng High Court says section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act is unconstitutional and invalid.

It lifts the 20-year expiry date on prosecuting sexual offences.

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The court order is suspended for 18 months, pending an amendment by Parliament.

Ian Levitt, representing the victims known as the Frankel 8, said they would now approach the Constitutional Court - which is the highest court in the land - to confirm the order.

The Women's Legal Centre, The Teddy Bear Clinic (TTBC), and Lawyers for Human Rights were supporting the Frankel 8's case in the matter.

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Eight people brought the case before the court, claiming they were sexually assaulted by stockbroker, Sydney Frankel, 30 years before his death.

They laid criminal charges in 2015, but the case never went ahead due to the limitation of the statute of prosecution. Frankel died of cancer in his Johannesburg home on April 13 this year.

He was 68.

They will now ask the Constitutional Court to confirm the order.

Under the present law, the right to initiate prosecution lapses after 20 years for crimes of sexual assault.

This, however, does not apply to other serious offences, like murder, treason, kidnapping, genocide, and rape.

The eight applicants argued that the current limitation infringed on their right to dignity.

They want section 18 struck down for adults as well as for children.

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