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www.corpun.com   :  Archive   :  1976 to 1995   :  ZA Judicial Mar 1976

-- THE ARCHIVE --


SOUTH AFRICA

Judicial CP - March 1976



Corpun file 14126

Sunday Express, Johannesburg, 21 March 1976

Spare the rod and SAVE the child

Judge attacks cuts system

By Diana Powell

CHILDREN will no longer be caned by the courts, if new proposals for criminal reform are followed.

The study recommends a welfare system to replace formal courts for juvenile and child offenders.

The attitude in South Africa towards "cuts" -- which can cause bleeding and scars -- is attacked by a judge, and a researcher.

The report says corporal punishment has a "low deterrent potential".

Leading sociologist and criminologist, Dr James Midgley -- who looked into 898 cases in Cape Town -- says 57 per cent of first offenders who were given cuts in 1968 were convicted again within five years.

He proposes the total abolition of corporal punishment -- which, he says, was abandoned by most civilised countries on findings are early as 1947.

The study, published by the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Rehabilitation of Offenders, has the backing of the organisation's chairman, Cape Supreme Court Judge, Jan Steyn.

Mr Justice Steyn describes Dr Midgley's paper -- "Children on Trial" -- as an "insightful, and at times devastating, study of criminal justice as applied to the juvenile."

He hopes, he says, it will be "the spark to induce critical analysis and, where necessary, courageous reform".

In his foreword, Judge Steyn says: "The attitude still so prevalent, that all that is needed is a few cuts with a cane and the problems of the juvenile offender will disappear, cannot be sustained in the light of the glaring exposure which Dr Midgley's objective analysis has achieved."

Dr Midgley reports:

"Today the cane remains the most popular sentence in the juvenile court.

"While more constructive alternative methods now exist, these have not replaced corporal punishment to any extent.

"The whipping, it seems, is considered the panacea for delinquency."

He found that 87 per cent of the children who appeared were convicted, and that 57 per cent of these were whipped.

"Whippings were imposed for all types of offences, for all age and ethnic categories, irrespective of whether the offender was legally represented, and irrespective of previous conviction.

"The term 'cuts' is brutally appropriate, for a whipping imposed in terms of the appropriate Act is indeed a harsh punishment.

"In excess of four cuts, a whipping will often cause bleeding and scarring. Although the Act permits the parent of the child to be present, this is not frequently done -- and in view of the severity of the punishment, this is not surprising."

Dr Midgley also criticises jail as a deterrent.

"The court appeared to score greater success rates when non-punitive sentences were imposed. Reconvictions among those who were given a caution or conditional sentence were significantly lower than the overall recidivism rate.

"For some, the 1968 court appearance was a prelude to a far more serious criminal career. Each conviction brought an even more serious punishment, involving progressively lengthened periods of imprisonment.

"With the exception of removing the individual from the community, the prison sentence seemed to achieve little. Its rehabilitative effects were slight."

The alternative to present procedure, Dr Midgley says, is to remove children from the criminal justice system.

"The law must be altered so that it will no longer be possible for a child to commit a crime."

He suggests the creation of welfare courts, with legal status, but operating outside the criminal law.




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