SA HC | Child incapable of understanding the consequence of lying is incompetent witness under S. 164(1) of Criminal Procedure Act, 1977

South Africa High Court, Kwazulu–Natal Division: This appeal was preferred before the Bench of Ploos Van Amstel, J., against the order of conviction and sentence of appellant passed by regional Magistrate for commission of crime of rape in contravention of Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Act, 2007.

Facts of the case were such that the complainant a minor girl alleged appellant for the offence of raping her on several occasions between the years 2012 to 2015. The case went before the Magistrate where he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mkumbuzi, Counsel on behalf of the appellant submitted that complainant was not a competent witness and thus, her evidence was inadmissible on the ground that Magistrate had failed to establish if complainant understood the difference of truth and lies or the consequences of lying in accordance with Section 164(1) of the Act, 1977. Case of DPP v. Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, 2009 (4) SA 222 (CC) was relied on where it was stated that a child unable to comprehend what it was to speak the truth cannot be admonished to speak the truth and hence, was an incompetent witness and cannot testify.

High Court was of the view that the rationale behind a person to be admonished to speak the truth was to make sure that the evidence was reliable without which the appellant’s right to a fair trial would be compromised.  Agreeing with the submissions of the appellant the conviction and sentence were set aside and the appeal was allowed. [SS v. State, CASE NO. AR 220 of 2018, Order dated 01-03-2019]

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