n Child Abuse Research in South Africa - Aspects of sentencing child offenders in terms of the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008

Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1562-1383



The Child Justice Act 75 of 2008 establishes a separate criminal justice system for child offenders, which is mainly aimed at diverting child offenders from the formal criminal justice system. However, when diversion is not feasible, convicted child offenders have to be sentenced in child justice courts. This has to be done "in accordance with the provisions of the Act" (s 68). Sentence should be preceded by a pre-sentence report, subject to a few exceptions, which are briefly explained in this contribution. The main part of the article considers the basic principles of sentencing in terms of the Act, with specific emphasis on those principles which guide the discretion to impose imprisonment or an alternative sentence. Of particular importance in this respect is that imprisonment should only be imposed as last resort, and it inevitable, then for the shortest appropriate period. In contrast to adult offenders, the main aim in case of child offenders is to facilitate their reintegration into society, and to ensure that they accept responsibility through restorative justice programmes. The seriousness of the crime remains very important, but for the first time in our law it is related to the harm caused by the crime, and the offender's blameworthiness for that harm. All these considerations are noted, and some of the implications discussed in more detail in this article.

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