Expedite child sexual assault cases

Dear Editor,

We write to bring attention to the plight of child survivors of sexual offences whose cases are being heard under the old sexual offences legislation that was in effect prior to the enactment of the ‘new’ Sexual Offences Act in 2010. Under the previous legislation a preliminary enquiry (mini court trial) is held in the magistrates court, followed by a trial by judge and jury in the High Court if the magistrate finds that there is sufficient evidence for the case to proceed. This process can take between 1 and 5 years and was one of the compelling reasons for enactment of new legislation.

At present, Help & Shelter has a number of child sexual assault clients who after several years are still waiting to have their preliminary enquiries completed and to make matters worse in a substantial proportion of these cases preliminary enquiries that were almost completed have to be re-started as magistrates have either been transferred to another court, resigned or otherwise left the bench. This means further delays in an already tortuous, traumatizing and time consuming process. Worse yet, some of these child survivors will have to go through the ordeal of again giving evidence and being subjected to cross examination.

We call on those in authority to find a humane solution to these forgotten child survivors of sexual offences. We demand that ways be found to complete these cases without further delay so that the children can move on with their lives and complete the healing process they so desperately need.

Help & Shelter has already made representation to those in high office in the judiciary and we are now further advocating  for justice for these child survivors. Surely they deserve this.

Yours faithfully,
Danuta Radzik
Denise Dias
Gaitrie Shivsankar
Josephine Whitehead
For Help & Shelter

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