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MPs close loophole in Sexual Offences Act

Members of Parliament approved an amendment to prevent 29 offences from being unpunishable.

Members of Parliament approved an amendment to prevent 29 offences from being unpunishable.

CAPE TOWN - Parliament succeeded on Tuesday in closing loopholes in the Sexual Offences Act.

Members of Parliament approved an amendment as a stopgap measure to prevent 29 offences from being unpunishable in the Western Cape.

The legislation was in the spotlight in the wake of a Western Cape High Court judgment last month.

The Women's Legal Centre's Sanya Bornman said she welcomed the urgency with which MPs had dealt with the problem.

"I'm very pleased that the bill has been passed so quickly and I believe the president will sign it into law within the next week. It means the offences contained in the act are now all punishable in law."

She said the Supreme Court of Appeal will have to deal with the issue of pending cases.

"In terms of the offences that have been committed between 2007 and now, which is when the bill first came into operation, those will have to be dealt with in terms of the appeals court."

The flaws were exposed when a Riversdale magistrate dismissed a case against Arnold Prins for forcibly fondling a woman.

The offence had no penalty clause and the magistrate's decision was upheld by the Western Cape High Court in May.

The National Prosecuting Authority in the Western Cape appealed the decision and the case will be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.