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Centre for Child Law and Others v Media 24 Limited and Others (CCT261/18) [2019] ZACC 46

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Centre for Child Law and Others v Media 24 Limited and Others (CCT261/18) [2019] ZACC 46

6th December 2019

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[1] “Stories matter.  Many stories matter.  Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign.  But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanise.  Stories can break the dignity of people.  But stories can also repair that broken dignity.”[1]  This case is about real life stories, in particular, about children.  It is about the way in which these are told, who decides when this should be done, and the numerous effects of storytelling.

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[2] This application arises from an order of the Supreme Court of Appeal.[2]  Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Act[3] (CPA) was declared constitutionally invalid to the extent that the provision does not protect the identity of child victims[4] of crimes in criminal proceedings.  The Supreme Court of Appeal also dismissed an appeal against an order that section 154(3) is constitutionally valid; even though it does not confer ongoing anonymity protection to child accused, survivors and witnesses once they turn 18 years of age.[5]  The matter comes before us for confirmation of the order of constitutional invalidity.  There is also an application to cross-appeal against the declaration of invalidity and one for leave to appeal against the order dismissing an application for ongoing protection.

[3] At the heart of this application are two central issues.  The first concerns the scope of protection provided by section 154(3) to the anonymity of child victims in criminal proceedings.  The impugned section expressly provides anonymity protections for child accused or witnesses in criminal proceedings, which prevents the publication of any information that discloses the identity of children falling into these classes.  These protections may only be lifted with the permission of a court, on a case-by-case basis, if it is just and equitable to do so.  However, the protection does not extend to child victims.  The second issue concerns ongoing protection, and whether the protection afforded by section 154(3) should extend into adulthood for child accused, witnesses and victims.

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[4] These two issues raise a tension that will require a delicate balancing act between various constitutional rights and interests.  On the one hand, the best interests of children[6] and their rights to dignity,[7] equality,[8] privacy[9] and on the other hand, the right to freedom of expression[10] and the principle of open justice.[11]

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