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December 02, 2004

Courts can't refuse testimony of mentally disabled

Five Appeal Court judges have ruled that no court may refuse to hear a mentally disabled person's testimony, reports Beeld. This landmark ruling was a unanimous decision by a full Bench of appeal judges who ruled that the case of a man must be reheard after he was acquitted of raping a mentally disabled teen because of a lack of evidence. During the trial of Sidney Katoo in the Port Elizabeth High Court, the judge refused the State's request to allow the mentally disabled 16-year-old rape victim to testify. The judge at the time used a stipulation in the Criminal Procedure Act that states that mentally disabled witnesses may not testify. But the Appeal Court judges ruled that mental disability alone could not be used to stop people from testifying. The only time a witness could be rejected on these grounds was if the person's condition was of such a nature that he or she was unable to understand the court proceedings or the importance of an oath. The judges also gave the State permission to again charge Katoo with rape, despite an earlier acquittal.
Full report by Beeld on News24 site

 

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