The National Prosecuting Authority’s sexual offences unit has revealed that a quarter of the criminal cases on court rolls involve sex-related charges Of those cases, more than half involve children.

Speaking at the tenth anniversary celebrations of the NPA’s sexual offences and community affairs unit in Johannesburg on Thursday, the unit’s Deputy Director, Pierre Smith, said that, despite its achievements, sexual offences courts “are still tough for us”.

Sexual offences courts, which specialise in hearing sex-crimes, domestic violence and child-abuse cases, have been in “unfortunate demise” for the past few years, said Brandon Lawrence, the unit’s Senior Advocate.

Lawrence said that the number of special courts had shrunk from 75 to 39 because of a “misunderstanding” about their role. But “under the new government, those courts will be brought back,” he said.

The unit’s conviction rate in specialised courts was “a respectable” 68%, Lawrence said. The unit’s Special Director, Thoko Majokweni, spoke of the importance of resurrecting the child protection and sexual offences units, which was disbanded in 2006.

The return of the units has been mooted by police leadership and Ms Majokweni said they were essential to increase the conviction rate.

“This is very important as it is such a specialised area. Not everybody is able to deal with child victims, and most of the time you only have one chance,” she said.

Source: ( 20091211)

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