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Child abuse

Offences against children are one of the most serious offences. Children are very often too young to protect themselves against adults. Our law needs to protect children against abuse and neglect, and other forms of violence.

Part of our Children's Act 38 of 2005 has a register in part 2 of Chapter 7, known as The National Child Protection Register. Part A of the Register has the purpose of establishing a database recording the circumstances of each contravention of the Act or non-compliance with its provisions.

The aim of Part B of the Register is to record anyone found unsuited to work with children. The full names and address of the person are recorded, fingerprints, photograph, the reason why the finding was made, as well as particulars of the criminal trial if there was one.

Only certain courts can find a person unsuitable to work with children. The Children's Court is one such court. A criminal court is another. Any forum recognised by law in disciplinary proceedings can also find a person unsuitable to work with children.

Our law does however allow a person found unsuitable to work with children to apply to have his or her criminal record expunged. One can only do this after ten years have passed since he or she was convicted. In order to do this the name of such person must be removed from Part B of the Register in terms of Section 128 of the Act. He or she must also not have been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine during the ten year period.

In terms of Section 128(4) a person convicted more than once of an offence with regard to a child may not be removed from Part B of the Register. This seems more than reasonable to me. The abuse of children is such a serious offence that an offender shouldn't be given more than one chance.

An offender can bring an application to be removed from Part B on the ground that he or she has been rehabilitated. Regulation 45(2)(a) lists certain requirements for a person to be removed on the basis of rehabilitation.

In order for a person to be removed on the basis of rehabilitation there must be a report by a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker that the applicant has been rehabilitated. Another requirement is that there must be an outline of steps taken by the offender to rehabilitate himself or herself since his or her name was put on the Register.

At last our law seems to be progressing in regard to crimes against children. Once your name is on that Register it is not all that easy to get it off. This is clearly in the best interests of all children who have been or are being abused. It is very well thought out legislature.

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