Sexual assault claims can now be prosecuted 20 years after an incident
Allegations of sexual assault can be pursued at any time and are no longer restricted to 20 years‚ the High Court in Johannesburg ruled on Monday.
Eight alleged victims of the late philanthropist Sidney Frankel‚ who accused him of assaulting them when they were children‚ have won their case to change the law that limited sexual offences other than rape to a prescription period of 20 years.
The eight have an ongoing civil case against his estate.
Section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act imposes a prescription period of 20 years in which to prosecute a sexual offence other than rape.
Acting Judge Claire Hartford found this restriction to be "unconstitutional".
The Constitutional Court now has to confirm this high court order to make it law‚ said attorney Ian Levitt. The confirmation is expected very soon.
The judge has given Parliament 18 months to remedy the law that has a statute of limitations on sexual offences. Should Parliament not do so‚ the law will change as the judge has written.
Miranda Jordan-Friedmann‚ director of Women and Men against Child Abuse‚ called the judgment "profound and huge and a momentous occasion".
She said generations would thank the Frankel eight for what they had done.
She said‚ "Everyone in this justice system won today." She thanked the eight individuals for their "bravery and letting [out] their most intimate secrets to the public".
She said that they had won the case for every abused child, and that the ruling allowed other victims to come forward and be believed years after abuse.
"My clients have not only been traumatised by what happened to them‚ but there is a secondary trauma because the law has not been changed‚" said advocate Anton Katz, SC, when the case was argued.
Katz said one accuser claimed that during the 1970s, Frankel sexually assaulted her‚ including penetration using his fingers.
"He would sit her on his lap in such a way her body would be in contact with his penis. He would insist this was good. He would penetrate her so hard and offered her a Rolo chocolate for comfort."
Frankel died at his home in Johannesburg in March. He was 68.