Police fail molested 4-year-old
Police decline to open a case as the child is ‘too young to testify’.
The family of a Roodepoort girl are exploring any means possible to get justice after their 4-year-old was allegedly molested at her pre-school, and detectives declined to open a case, saying that the girl is ‘too young to testify’, according to the SABC.

A forensic psychologist who interviewed the child found evidence of abuse, but members of the Family Violence, Child Abuse and Sexual Offences unit told the parents (after also interviewing the child) that no statement would be made.

It's not a 'game' if it hurts...

The child had reportedly been playing in the bath when she alarmed her mother by ‘playing’ a certain way; she then told her mom that the ‘game’ is one she plays with a friend at school, who happens to be an adult male, who has hurt her.

The traumatised family are now struggling to bypass a legal system not in their favour- since their child would not be considered a credible witness, the alleged molester will in all likelihood escape prosecution.

Legal hands are tied

According to Ms. Jackie Gallinetti of the Children’s Rights Project at UWC, the following challenges exist when pursuing convictions in child sexual abuse cases:
  • Competency of the child to give evidence. Presiding officers often do not have the expertise to decide whether a child is competent.
  • Cautionary rules. General practice is to treat child evidence with caution especially in the case of a single witness.
  • Cross-examination of child witnesses.These guidelines are too loose and encourage aggressive practices.
  • Evaluation of child evidence. Too many people are involved in the interviewing of child victims, which lead to problems around credibility of evidence.
In addition to those challenges, the Law Reform Examiner notes the following about the competency and credibility of child witnesses:
  • Despite there being no legal basis for it, children are required to undergo competency tests before they are allowed to testify in court.
  • Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Act says that a witness who does not understand the nature of an oath may be asked only to ‘speak the truth’, which makes it easier to dismiss the credibility of that witness’s testimony.
  • Child witnesses are sometimes required to explain to the court the difference between the truth and a lie, despite this being a concept which has “challenged philosophers for hundreds, if not thousands, of years”.
It would appear that despite the SA legal system purporting to prize the rights of the child, legal loopholes and other problems within the justice system can, in certain circumstances, fail these vulnerable children who are left without a voice.

Further literature on the topic indicates that the ages of children being raped, sexually abused or molested is dropping dramatically- frequently to under the age of seven. A possible conclusion is that sexual predators are targeting younger children knowing that they make poor witnesses. Certainly, this is something the 4-year-old above will be coming to terms with for a long, long time.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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