Pretoria - With more than 57 000 children charged with crimes during the 2011/12 financial year, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has called for the country to do more to protect its children.
"The number of charges against children during the 2011/12 financial year is 57 592. While the South African Police Service (SAPS) will continue to arrest those who commit crime, a greater and growing awareness among parents/guardians to look after and protect children, must be intensified within society.
"Any commission of crime by children is a societal challenge that requires a societal response, not just by police but all of us as a collective," Mthethwa said on Tuesday.
The minister warned that police would intensify the war against those who commit crimes against children, including adults who influence and abuse children to commit crime for their own benefit.
Mthethwa said SAPS instructions to police officers specifically forbade the detention of children with adults and should this happen, a departmental investigation would be instituted against the members responsible.
Children should only be detained when there were compelling reasons as set out in the National Instructions for Children in Conflict with the Law.
"Children under the age of 10 can, however, not be charged, as according to the provisions of the Child Justice Act, 2008, they do not have criminal capacity. Whilst the crimes they are allegedly involved in can be captured, the child cannot be charged as an offender of that crime," he explained.
To improve efficiency in the capturing of such crimes, SAPS was now developing an information system to accurately capture all data regarding children under the age of 10 who had been involved in crime.
The information system had been tested for the required dimensions of information which includes details of the nature of offence; any other person involved and the probation officer to whom the child was referred.
Arrangements had been made for the piloting of the information system. Once the pilot was completed and the efficacy of the system had been verified, it would be rolled out nationwide in the 2013/2014 financial year.
The minister also noted the headway made in dealing with crimes against women, children and the elderly since the 2009 decision to re-establish the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units.
"Some of the notable progress since the re-establishment of the FCS units is that in the cases where it involves children under the age of 18, the unit has secured convictions that resulted in total of 10 345 years for those criminals. In the same age group, it has managed to secure 175 life sentences for these crimes," he said. - SAnews.gov.za