The Department of Justice and Correctional Services is reviewing the minimum age of criminal capacity, with a view to raising it.
In a briefing to a joint meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services and Select Committee on Education and Recreation, the Department said that the current minimum age (10 years) was out of kilter with other domestic legislation such as the Children’s Act that sets 12 years as the median age to consent to medical treatment and to access contraceptives. Similarly, the Criminal Law Amendment Act states that a child below the age of 12 is incapable of appreciating the nature of a sexual act, but as the law stands a child of 10 or 11 can be charged with a sexual offence.
The Department used data gathered from 92 courts from April 2010 to August 2014 on child offenders and subsequently held a 2-day National Experts Workshop in February 2015 on the minimum age of criminal capacity with children's rights experts. The recommendation from the workshop was that the minimum age of criminal capacity be raised from 10 years (current) to 14 years; or 12 years with a provision for mandatory evaluation of 12 and 13 year olds.
In addition to their statistics, the presentation also included statistics from the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Legal Aid SA on child offenders.
See infographic below for stats recorded by SAPS and Legal Aid SA on child offenders, the types of crimes and the age at which children commit crimes: