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Judicial CP - August 2004

Corpun file 13881, 12 August 2004

Prosecutor: Caning can work

By Sonja Carstens

Johannesburg - Corporal punishment for youth offenders will not find its way back into South African law books.

However, a trend, where more and more youth offenders return to the dock for a second and even a third time, has apparently emerged since this form of punishment was abolished.

"Unfortunately, it is true that alternative sentences to corporal punishment do not work for all children. Community service is not a deterrent for the undisciplined, arrogant youth offender who shuns authority," said Jan Henning, deputy head of the national prosecuting authority, on Wednesday.

Henning said a "hiding" stood him and some friends in good stead when they were young. "Today we all hold responsible positions," he said.

Henning was reacting to the opinion expressed by some lawyers that the crisis of overpopulated prisons could be drastically relieved if South Africa, like Botswana, reintroduced corporal punishment for lesser offences.

Draft legislation was recently published in Botswana that will allow men under the age of 40 to be sentenced to caning for lesser offences instead of sending them to prison.

Corporal punishment for youth offenders and adult males was scrapped from South African law books earlier because the Constitutional Court declared it to be unconstitutional.

Henning agreed that young men under the age of 21, who was given a caning by an officer of the court, seldom returned to court.

However, he found corporal punishment for adult men cruel. He once witnessed a man fainting after the third cut.

"It wasn't a joke. I also witnessed youths being caned. I did not experience this as cruelty, but rather as a decent hiding," Henning said.

Henning said government was trying not to send all youth offenders to prison because it is a crime school where they are not rehabilitated.

"Some of the other sentencing options are effective for certain children, but there are children who cannot be convinced through rehabilitation programmes or a good talk to change their ways.

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