Johannesburg – A landmark case involving people with an intellectual disability will be heard in the Constitutional Court on the 17th November 2014 at 10h00. In Anna-Marie De Vos v Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the court will hear a case concerning the rights of people with intellectual disabilities charged with a crime. This follows a judgment by the Western Cape High Court declaring that section 77 (6) of the Criminal Procedure Act unconstitutional as it violates the accused’s right to freedom and security of the person.

According to section 77 (6)(a)(i) of the Criminal Procedure Act, when a court finds that an accused does not appreciate or understand proceedings as a result of a ‘mental illness or intellectual disability’, it prescribes that a judge must direct such a person to be detained in either a prison or a psychiatric hospital involuntarily.

Two cases brought the matter to the fore. The first is a case against Llwellyn Stuurman, a 23 year old with a mild to moderate intellectual disability allegedly stabbed and killed a 14 year old girl when he was 14 years old. Another is one against Pieter Snyders, a 35 year old born with Down syndrome, accused of raping an 11 year old girl about seven years ago. Both accused were being tried when the magistrate found that they did not understanding their respective proceedings.

Intellectual disabilities affect an individual’s ability to develop or acquire basic behavioral and social skills. These include Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy which cannot be medically treated. Mental illness, other the hand, refers to a disorder that affects one’s thinking, behavior or emotions and can be treated.

This case is significant because the current legal framework does not protect the rights of people with disabilities that interact with the criminal justice system on a daily basis. Understanding the needs of and difference between people with intellectual disabilities and people with mental illnesses means understanding that both groups require different treatment, care and rehabilitation.

Down Syndrome South Africa and SECTION27 strongly encourage all interested organisations to attend the court proceedings and support people with intellectual disabilities.

Where: Constitutional Court of South Africa, Braamfontein, Johannesburg

When: 17 November 2014

Time: 10h00

For any enquiries, contact:

Umunyana Rugege (Attorney, SECTION27) on rugege@section27.org.za or 083 458 5677 or

Thabang Chiloane (Chairperson, Down Syndrome South Africa) on 079 288 1918 or 082 902 1824