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CALS and TBF welcome Con Court judgment

- Lee-Anne Bruce

Teddy Bear Foundation and CALS welcome Constitutional Court judgment confirming time limits for prosecuting sexual offences unconstitutional

The Teddy Bear Foundation (TBF) and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) welcome today’s judgment by the Constitutional 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 prosecute a crime of sexual assault while there is no such time limit for rape.

CALS representing TBF intervened in the matter as a ‘friend of the court’ to assist the Court with this important issue and support the applicants. We were able to provide evidence on the nature of sexual abuse, delayed disclosure and the obligation on the state to protect children from abuse.

In a unanimous judgment, the Court today ruled that section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act is invalid and there should be no bar on prosecuting any sexual offences after 20 years.  In its ruling, the Court accepted that the survivors of rape and sexual assault face similar personal, social and structural disincentives when reporting these offences and that the harm caused by sexual offences is similar, regardless of whether it is the consequence of rape or other forms of sexual assault.

The Court has suspended the declaration of invalidity for 24 months to give Parliament time to undertake hearings on this issue. The Court did not acknowledge that Parliament has already adopted amendments to the legislation.

CALS and TBF have made submissions on changes to the law, commending Parliament for its proactive approach. We support the suggested amendment that there should be no time limits on prosecuting any sexual offences, but emphasise our position that sex work should not be criminalised as a sexual offence. Read our full submissions here.

“This judgment 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.”

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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