Advertisement

Embedding Rights into Practice: Challenges in Psycho-Legal Assessments of Complainants with Intellectual Disability in Cases of Sexual Abuse in South Africa

  • Beverley Dickman
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter critically examines the role of the psychologist undertaking psycho-legal assessments of complainants with intellectual disabilities in cases of sexual assault in South Africa. I describe challenges to citizenship rights faced by complainants in an overburdened justice system. Assessment of competence to act as a witness and assessment of capacity to consent to sexual intercourse are discussed, in the context of current South African legislation. Psycho-legal assessments facilitate access to the justice system. Paradoxically, these reports may label complainants in ways that limit citizenship rights, particularly when the complainant is presented as having the mental age of a child. I suggest assessment approaches that limit intrusion, facilitate autonomous decision-making, and participation in the legal process and acknowledge the civic contribution of the complainant.

References

  1. African National Congress Women’s League. (2014). Discussion paper on gender based violence. Retrieved from http://www.anc.org.za/docs/discus/2014/genderz.pdf. Accessed 16 Apr 2017.
  2. Bala, N., Lee, K., Lindsay, R. C. L., & Talwar, V. (2010). The competency of children to testify: Psychological research informing Canadian Law Reform. International Journal of Children’s Rights, 18, 53–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Benedet, J., & Grant, I. (2007). Hearing the sexual assault complaints of women with mental disabilities: Consent, capacity and mistaken belief. McGill Law Journal, 52, 243–289.Google Scholar
  4. Benedet, J., & Grant, I. (2012). Taking the stand: Access to justice for witnesses with mental disabilities in sexual assault cases. Osgood Hall Law Journal, 50(1), 1–45.Google Scholar
  5. Benedet, J., & Grant, I. (2013). More than an empty gesture: Enabling women with mental disabilities to testify on a promise to tell the truth. Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, 25, 31–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chalmers, J. (2008). Capacity. In P. A. Singer & A. M. Viens (Eds.), Cambridge textbook of bioethics (pp. 17–23). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Combrinck, H., & Meer, T. (2013). Gender-based violence against women with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities in South Africa: Promoting access to justice. Submission to the committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (17 April 2013). Retrieved from http://www.ghjru.uct.ac.za/ghjru/publications/parliamentary-other-submissions. Accessed 14 May 2017.
  8. Cooke, P., & Davies, G. (2001). Achieving best evidence from witnesses with learning disabilities: New guidelines. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29, 84–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dey, K., Thorpe, J., Tilley, A., & Williams, T. (2011). The road to justice: Victim empowerment legislation in South Africa: Road map report. Cape Town: Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, Open Democracy Advice Centre and the Women’s Legal Centre. Retrieved from http://www.shukumisa.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/The Road-to-Justice-Research-Report.pdf. Accessed 14 May 2017.
  10. Dickman, B. J., & Roux, A. J. (2005). Complainants with learning disabilities in sexual abuse cases: A 10-year review of a psycho-legal project in Cape Town, South Africa. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 33, 138–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Faull, A., & Mphutheng, P. (2009). Victim support. In Criminal (in)justice in South Africa: A civil society perspective (pp. 124–147). Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies.Google Scholar
  12. Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit (GHJRU), University of Cape Town. (2014). An evaluation of the victim empowerment programme (File number 12/1/2/3/16). Cape Town: Western Cape Department of Social Development.Google Scholar
  13. Henry, L., & Wilcock, R. (2013). Editorial: Witnesses with intellectual disabilities. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 60(1), 1–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Johns, R. (2014). Look ahead: Providing sexuality education for your son or daughter with intellectual disability. Cape Town: Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability.Google Scholar
  15. Kaliski, S., Allan, A., & Meintjies-van der Walt, L. (2006). Writing a psycholegal report. In S. Kaliski (Ed.), Psycholegal assessment in South Africa (pp. 329–341). Cape Town: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Matthews, I. (2009). The National Prosecuting Authority. In Criminal (in)justice in South Africa: A civil society perspective (pp. 98–123). Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies.Google Scholar
  17. McCarthy, M. (1999). Sexuality and women with learning disabilities. London: Jessica Kingsley.Google Scholar
  18. Meintjes, R. (2015). Submission by the South African professional society on the abuse of children (SAPSAC) following its 15th annual national child abuse conference, 10–12 November 2014, CSIR International Convention Centre, Pretoria.Google Scholar
  19. Milne, R., & Bull, R. (2001). Interviewing witnesses with learning disabilities for legal purposes. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29, 93–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ministry of Justice. (2011). Achieving best evidence in criminal proceedings: Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures. Retrieved from http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/docs/best_evidence_in_criminal_proceedings.pdf. Accessed 14 May 2017.
  21. Morris, J. (2005). Citizenship and disabled people: A scoping paper prepared for the Disability Rights Commission. Retrieved from http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/morris-Citizenship-and-disabled-people.pdf. Accessed 16 Apr 2017.
  22. Müller, K. D. (2002). The judicial officer and the child witness. Port Elizabeth: Printrite.Google Scholar
  23. Murphy, G. H., & O’Callaghan, A. (2004). Capacity of adults with intellectual disabilities to consent to sexual relationships. Psychological Medicine, 34(7), 1347–1357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nunkoosing, K., & Haydon-Laurelut, M. (2013). The relational basis of empowerment. In J. O’Brian & S. Duffy (Eds.), The need for roots. University of Portsmouth: Centre for Welfare Reform.Google Scholar
  25. O’Regan, K. (2001). Change v certainty: Precedent under the constitution. Advocate (April), 31. Retrieved from http://www.sabar.co.za/law-journals/2001/april/2001-april-vol014-no1-pp31-33.pdf. Accessed 14 May 2017.
  26. Pillay, A. L. (2012). The rape survivor with an intellectual disability vs the courts. South African Journal of Psychology, 42, 312–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Republic of South Africa. (1977). Criminal procedure act 51 of 1977. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/1977-051.pdf. Accessed 14 Apr 2017.
  28. Republic of South Africa. (2007). Criminal law (Sexual offences and related matters) amendment act 32 of 2007. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/2007-032.pdf. Accessed 14 Apr 2017.
  29. Republic of South Africa. (2009). Director of public prosecutions, Transvaal vs minister of justice and constitutional development, Albert Phaswane and Aaron Mokoena. Retrieved from http://saflii.org/za/cases/ZACC/2009/8.pdf. Accessed 16 Apr 2017.
  30. Republic of South Africa. (2013). Report on the re-establishment of the sexual offences courts. Ministerial advisory task team on the adjudication of sexual offence matters. (August 2013). Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov.za/reportfiles/other/2013-sxo-courts-report-aug2013.pdf. Accessed 15 Apr 2017.
  31. Series, L. (2015). Mental capacity and the control of sexuality of people with intellectual disabilities in England and Wales. In T. Shakespeare (Ed.), Disability research today: International perspectives. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  32. Sinason, V. (1992). Mental handicap and the human condition: New approaches from the Tavistock. London: Free Association Press.Google Scholar
  33. South African Law Commission. (2002). Project 107: Sexual offences report. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov.za/salrc/reports/r_prj107_2002dec.pdf. Accessed 16 Apr 2017.
  34. Thompson, D. (2011). Decisions about sex for people with learning disabilities. Nursing Times, 107. Retrieved from www.nursingtimes.net. Accessed 16 Apr 2017.
  35. United Nations. (1985). Declaration of basic principles of justice for victims of crime and abuse of power. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/40/a40r034.htm. Accessed 16 Apr 2017.
  36. United Nations General Assembly. (2006). Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. A/RES/61/106. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/resources/general-assembly/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-ares61106.html. Accessed 16 Apr 2017.
  37. Van Eeden, R., & de Beer, M. (2013). Assessment of cognitive functioning. In C. Foxcroft & G. Roodt (Eds.), Introduction to psychological assessment in the South African context (4th ed., pp. 147–169). Cape Town: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Van Niekerk, H. A. (2014). Determining the competency of children with developmental delays to testify in criminal trials (unpublished PhD thesis). Grahamstown, Rhodes University.Google Scholar
  39. Vetten, L., Jewkes, R., Sigworth, R., Christofides, N., Loots, L., & Dunseith, O. (2008). Tracking justice: The attrition of rape cases through the criminal justice system in Gauteng. Johannesburg: Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, the South African Medical Research Council and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. Retrieved from http://csvr.org.za/docs/tracking_justice.pdf. Accessed 16 Apr 2017.
  40. World Health Organization. (2015). International classification of diseases (10th ed.). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/classifications/icd/icdonlineversions/en/. Accessed 16 Apr 2017.

Personal Communications

  1. Advocate Retha Meintjes, Deputy Director, National Prosecuting Authority, President of SAPSAC.Google Scholar
  2. Susan Manson, Consultant Psychologist, Sexual Abuse Victim Empowerment Programme, Cape Mental Health.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beverley Dickman
    • 1
  1. 1.Cape TownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations