Medical and legal experts have welcomed updates to the J88 form – the official form used by health workers to document injuries of victims of violence in preparation for a legal case.
State Advocate Pule Mathaha, who took part in recent training on the form organised by the Foundation for Human Rights, said the changes will make the form easier to prosecute attackers
“I am glad that they have taken away the words sexual assault and now use sexual offence and assault or rape, which are specific offences,” said Mathaha, who is based at the Tembisa Magistrates’ Court.
Mathaha added that the new form is easier to understand, and provides space for the facts of the incident which the old form did not.
“Doctors now have to focus on information that is relevant to the case and a lot of information that they found to be irrelevant have been removed,” he said.
Doctor Steve Naidoo said the changes will make the form easier to document the medical findings.
“From my perspective, there was a need to change for diagnostic purposes but for the legal people there were issues with certain things that were missing on the form,” said Naidoo. “There was no space for the amount of history that we must have written down. There was no space for the history of the incident.”
The old form also did not have enough space for circumstances of the incident, clothing examination and certain contact details.
“But from my perspective, more importantly, I felt the form prescribed medical findings that over the years were taken as gospel. For example, the number of fingers admitted on a vaginal examination does not help you to distinguish if a woman has been penetrated two days ago or not, so what the number of fingers had to do in the J88 form, we did not know.”
However, these changes might not have an impact on the number of prosecutions because, as Mathaha puts it, prosecutions depend on the doctor’s findings and the merits of the case.- Health-e News
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