Kerkhoff v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development 2011 2 SACR 109 (GNP): Intermediary Appointment Reports and a Child's Right to Privacy Versus the Right of an Accused to Access to Information
General consensus exists that the adversarial nature of the South African criminal procedure with its often aggressive cross-examination of a witness, sometimes by an accused himself, will in most cases expose a child to undue mental stress or suffering when having to testify in court. In confirmation of this fact and with a notion to shield child witnesses from the stress or suffering when having to testify in the presence of an accused the function of an intermediary was introduced with the insertion of section 170A into the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977. In terms of section 170A(1) a court may if it appears to such court that it would expose any witness under the biological or mental age of eighteen years to undue mental stress or suffering if he or she testified at such hearing, appoint a competent person as an intermediary in order for the witness to give evidence through that intermediary. Section 170A(1) contemplates that a child complainant will be assessed prior to testifying in court in order to determine whether the services of an intermediary should be used. If the assessment reveals that the services of an intermediary are needed, then the state must arrange for an intermediary to be available at the commencement of the trail. The aforementioned procedure of section 170A(1) was followed in Kerkhoff v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development 2011 2 SACR 109 (GP) and is the subject of this discussion.
Keywords: Section 170A, Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, child witnesses, intermediaries.