The baby and the prosecutor

The baby and the prosecutor

Carina Coetzee is a seasoned senior prosecutor in the Johannesburg magistrates court, and all Joburg cases of crimes against babies and young children pass across her desk. And for baby Michael Connor – blind, brain-dead and a paraplegic after horrific repeated parental beatings – she was prepared to sell her home to bring his abuser to justice.

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Submitted by : Max Klein of Sea Point on 2008-12-12 10:04:02
What a revolting case: one's gut feeling is to lock up the parents and throw away the keys.

But that isn't going to do anything to stop this sort of thing. One can say that confidently because of the fact that people are charged and punished on a regular basis for child abuse, yet it continues.

What is clear is that the SYSTEM FAILED to ensure the child's Constitutional Rights, specifically Section 28.1d which states "Every child has the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation", and Section 28.2 which states "A child's best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child. "

In terms of 28.2 the child's best interests are what really matters - that it be protected - whereas the criminal justice system is focussed on finding culprits to punish. That focus is unconstitutional!

But even at the Constitutional level there is ambiguity for Section 28.1b states "that every child has the right to family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment." So removal of the child from its parents must have posed a dilemma for the unfortunate social worker and others concerned.

In my opinion the child's best interests would have been served if immediately upon a charge of assault being laid - and if immediate removal of the child to a place of safety was not considered essential - there were a legal compulsion to automatically place the family under obligatory close supervision including measures such as:

1. Compulsory medical exam of the child every week for a month, then twice weekly for 6 months, and then monthly for at least a year.

2. Parents obliged to remain in residence and magisterial district unless authorized by supervising officer to move

3. Repeated unannounced home visits by supervising officer or social worker

Obligatory routine forensic audit of such cases in order to identify any System Faults which require legislative changes with reporting to the relevant Ministers, whose obligations are spelled out in Section 28.

That airplane crashes are so uncommon is not because human errors don't occur or because those who make them are punished but because when something does go wrong the system is modified to prevent the same thing from happening again.

Max Klein
Submitted by : Terence Steeneveldt of Johannesburg on 2008-09-29 12:58:16
Other than contributing to Avril Elizabeth's worthy cause, it would be great if noseweek could facilitate reader contributions to Carina Coetzee's pursuit of justice.

Editor's Note
Fortunately Carina's lawyers acted pro bono and she won the case so she had no costs to pay. Michael's monthly costs are currently being met by generous donors, but we may ask readers in future to help contribute to his rehabilitation.


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