What is a pre-hearing conference? Let us revise Section 69 of the Children's Act 38/2005 1

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Link to Children’s Act 38/2005: Source

The summary:

Pre = previous to; before
Hearing = an opportunity to state one's case
Conference = a formal meeting of people with a shared interest, typically one that takes place over several days

[As a child protection social worker, it is important for you to know that the Children’s Act 38/2005 allows the children’s court to order a pre-hearing conference in a case where a matter is disputed. Sub-section 2 of this section is quite important to remember though, especially if other role players forget about this sub-section!]

  • Section 69 (1) states that the presiding officer may order this conference in order to mediate between parties, to resolve differences and/or to define issues that the court must preside over.
  • In sub-section 2, it is stated very clearly that pre-hearing conferences may not be held for cases, in which there are allegations of child abuse or child sexual abuse.
  • This section further states that a child can participate in such a conference unless the children’s court decides otherwise. This relates to Section 10 of the Children’s Act 38/2005 (child participation).
  • The children’s court will prescribe how and when the conference will take place, the manner in which record keeping will be done, who should attend and; the children’s court will then consider the report of the conference when it is time for the hearing.

So what?

  • It is just important for you to know, as a child protection social worker in South Africa, that there is something like a pre-hearing conference, how it works, and when it is not allowed (when child abuse is alleged).
  • Also, when this option is used, it should be seen in a positive light: keeping children’s cases out of the official system, potentially resolving matters faster/more efficiently & with less dragged out conflict and so forth.
  • Knowledge is power, and perhaps one day it might be necessary for you to ask the presiding officer to make an order for a pre-hearing conference, if you think the matter can be resolved faster and more efficiently outside of court (only if doing it this way will be in the best interest of the child concerned).

  • 1 Carefully study this section in your own time, we only summarise what this section stipulates. There are other regulations and forms to consult when reading this section.