n South African Journal of Criminal Justice - The triumvirate role of legal counsel for child offenders : representative, intercessor or agent?

Volume 26, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1011-8527
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2118



By implementing the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008, the legislature has ensured that child offenders are held accountable for their criminal actions in a manner that takes cognisance of their particular vulnerability. This restorative approach has mandated the implementation of various novel court procedures and altered numerous others under the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977. This research examines the peculiar position of defence counsel under the auspices of the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008 and compares the position of South African legal representatives to those of their American counterparts practising in the organised profession at Federal and/or State level. The submission argues that the Act, although laudable in purpose, is deficient in identifying, defining, and regulating the client-centred versus best interests binary that legal representatives face when defending child offenders. The enactment of practice standards and directives may go some way in improving the ethical and professional dilemma faced by defence counsel whilst simultaneously ensuring that child offenders are protected from the paternalistic attitude of best interest lawyering.

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