Media houses may continue to name children involved in criminal cases after they turn 18, whether they be victims, witnesses or offenders, the SCA has ruled. However, while the court turned down the Centre for Child Law's bid to extend identity protection beyond the age of 18, it has granted protection to child victims of crime and child witnesses, says News24.

The court ordered that the legislature make the necessary amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act, but, in the meantime, has 'written in' the prohibition in the relevant clause. The case has its roots in the matter involving 'kidnapped baby' Zephany Nurse, who a few months before she turned 18 became aware that her 'true identity' would be revealed on her birthday.

The centre secured an interdict on her behalf prohibiting this, an order still in effect. But the centre pointed out there were dozens of other similar cases and it should not be necessary for them to have to approach High Courts urgently in order to protect their rights.

While not naming these child victims and accused, the centre used the examples of the sister of axe-killer Henri van Breda, the sole survivor of the attack, the teenage murderer of right-wing politician Eugene Terre'Blanche, who was named once he turned 18, and a 17-year-old who caused a fatal car accident, who was named when he turned 18 in spite of a court order.

The centre argued that the identification of child victims and offenders 'can have a catastrophic impact on their lives', including trauma and regression, stigma, shame, and a constant fear of being identified. The case was opposed by most of the major media houses which contended that any adult protection extension would infringe their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of the media and the principle of open justice.

Centre for Child Law & others v Media 24 Limited & others