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Court declares Section 18 of Criminal Procedure Act invalid

This court decision now means there is no longer any "expiration date" on criminal charges for any sexual offences.

FILE: Several people claiming to have been sexually assaulted by billionaire Sidney Frankel as children during the 1970s and 1980s have laid a civil claim against the businessman. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The High Court in Johannesburg has declared Section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act unconstitutional, which means the 20-year prescription bar on sexual offences will be lifted.

The court has ordered that the law be sent to Parliament for a period of 18 months to be amended.

The so-called Frankel Eight went to the High Court in an attempt to change the law which prevented victims of sexual abuse from criminally charging their abusers 20 years after the crime was committed.

Acting Judge Clare Hartford has ordered that Section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act is inconsistent with the Constitution and is invalid.

This judgment now needs to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court with the declaration of invalidity suspended for 18 months to allow Parliament to fix the law.

Hartford’s order is wider than expected as it applies to both children and adults.

This now means that there will no longer be a 22-year bar on criminal charges involving sexual abuse.

Activists say this is a momentous judgment and a victory for all survivors of abuse.

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