In May the Western Cape High Court upheld a decision by the Riversdale Magistrate’s Court that a man who forcibly fondled a woman in 2009 could not be sentenced because the behaviour had no penalty under the Act.
Arnold Prins was charged with sexual assault in terms of the Act, which came into effect at the end of 2007.
Prior to his trial, Prins argued the behaviour of which he was accused had no penalty under the Act. The regional court quashed the charges. This decision was upheld by a full bench of the high court.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) applied for leave to appeal the judgment. Appeal court judge president Lex Mpati granted the NPA’s request.
Courts in KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State have taken a different interpretation of the Act’s silence, and the dilemma therefore exists only in the Western Cape.
The Sexual Offences Act was amended by Parliament on June 5, as an urgent interim measure, to give courts the discretion to impose sentences for the 29 offences for which penalties were not prescribed.
These offences include sexual assault, consensual sexual acts with children, sexual exploitation and grooming of children, and sexual offences against mentally disabled people. – Sapa