n South African Journal of Criminal Justice - The evidence of young children : establishing the truth in South African criminal courts

Volume 17, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1011-8527
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2118



This article critically addresses the manner in which accurate information from child witnesses is obtained in criminal proceedings. Although establishing the truth is a primary objective in criminal proceedings, young children are often excluded from the criminal justice system by being characterised as unreliable witnesses. The cognitive development of young children is explained and the article emphasises the crucial need for the proper training of judicial officers in the various developmental changes in the cognitive development of young children. The Appeal Court's decision in S v B is discussed and welcomed as it is envisaged that this decision will bring justice to victims of child sexual abuse. The inability of a young witness to understand the oath should be clearly distinguished from such a child's reliability as a witness. Finally, the recommendation is put forward that no distinction should be made between sworn and unsworn evidence and the Sexual Offences Draft Bill's recommendation for the abolition of the competency test, is supported.

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