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Teddy Bear Foundation and CALS Welcome Judgment In Sidney Frankel case

- Lee-Anne Bruce

Court finds prescription periods for prosecuting any sexual offences invalid

The Teddy Bear Foundation and Centre for Applied Legal Studies today welcomed the judgment by the South Gauteng High Court in a case brought against accused sexual offender the late Sidney Frankel. The application challenged a section of the Criminal Procedure Act which gives the state a maximum of 20 years to initiate prosecution for a crime of sexual assault while there is no such time limit for the crime of rape.

In a landmark judgment, Acting Judge Hartford today ruled that the prescription periods for sexual offences set out in the Criminal Procedure Act are invalid and that there should no longer be time limits for prosecuting these serious crimes, saying at paragraph 68:

“The law must encourage the prosecution of these nefarious offences, which are a cancer in South African society, and must support victims in coming forward, no matter how late in the day. The law should not smother a victim’s ability to bring sexual offenders to book, as it presently does.”

The Court has suspended the declaration of invalidity for 18 months to give Parliament time to amend the relevant legislation. This judgment will now need to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

The Teddy Bear Foundation, represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies at Wits University, entered the matter as a ‘friend of the court’ earlier this year to assist the Court with this important issue and support the applicants.

“This is a significant step towards ensuring that the criminal justice system is responsive to all victims of sexual offences no matter when they come forward,” says Sheena Swemmer, attorney at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies. “The judgment recognises the devastating effects of sexual violence in our country on children and adults; women and men.”

“It is critical that victims of sexual abuse be treated fairly and equally before the law,” says Shaheda Omar, Clinical Director of the Teddy Bear Foundation. “This judgment acknowledges the deep trauma that sexual violence of any kind may have on victims and the Court has now demonstrated its understanding that the process of disclosure is in itself painful, complicated, lengthy and takes great bravery.”

For inquiries, please contact:

  • Shaheda Omar
  • Clinical Director: Teddy Bear Foundation
  • 011 484 4554
  • 083 557 3720


The TBF (previously Teddy Bear Clinic) is an NGO that was established in 1986 to provide holistic child protection services. Through our facility in Parktown Johannesburg and satellite centres across the province we provide a range of services to abused children and their families. The TBF provides a range of Victim Support Services including counselling and court preparation programmes; Outreach initiatives; Diversion programmes and Multi-Disciplinary Training. For more on our activities visit


The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) is a public interest law organisation based at the School of Law at the University of the Witwatersrand. Founded in 1978 by Professor John Dugard, CALS continues to use a combination of research, advocacy and litigation to advance human rights and social justice. Read more about our work at