THE Zephany Nurse civil case, which took on the media, is now on path to leave a permanent mark on the country’s history.
Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act have been introduced to regulate against revealing the identity of an accused, a witness or victim who is under the age of 18 years.
Further in line with the historical court victory by the University of Pretoria-based Centre for Child Law (CCL) in the Zephany Nurse case, the Amendment Bill introduced to the National Assembly this week intended to ban naming under 18 victims, witnesses and the accused even “at any stage after the conclusion of criminal proceedings”.
CCL took up the matter in 2015 to protect the interests of a Cape Town female who came to be nicknamed Zephany Nurse. She discovered at 17 years and nine months that she was kidnapped as a two-day-old baby at Groote Schuur Hospital.
The story became big, stoking her fear that the media would name her when she turned 18 and during the time when her abductor’s trial continued in court. Born in 1997, the woman revealed her name as Miché Solomon in August 2019 ahead of the release of her book.
She applied to the North Gauteng High Court for the removal of an interim interdict protecting her identity. But the legal implications of her case remained in place. In December 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that Criminal Procedure Act was unconstitutional insofar as it did not bar the naming of child offenders, child victims and child witnesses when they become adults.
Justice Nonkosi Mhlantla stressed in the ruling that withholding identities of child participants in criminal proceedings would not impede journalism.
The legislation just had to ensure that the child participants did not live in fear that the media would name them once they turn 18, she said.
“A child’s vulnerability and their need for protection do not abruptly disappear when they turn 18. “If ongoing protection is not the default, an unfair burden is placed on child participants who have recently reached 18,” Justice Mhlantla said. The Criminal Procedure Amendmentw will now be processed in Parliament.
BONGANI NKOSI email@example.com
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