Therapeutic Jurisprudence in a Family Court in South Africa

Gabriela Mckellar


This paper looks at one magistrate’s practice and perceptions in the Family Court she presides over in Wynberg, Cape Town, South Africa and how Therapeutic Jurisprudence (TJ) is being implemented there.  The paper explains the specific laws that allow for a TJ approach in the Family Court and posits that although the legal framework makes provision for a magistrate to implement a TJ approach, the legal framework on its own is not sufficient to guarantee a consistent TJ practice nor outcome.  It is suggested that certain concepts that are taught by the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) to understand and define restorative practices (RP), an emerging social science, be used to influence and measure the magistrate’s practice and the outcomes of the court proceedings for TJ compliance.  These concepts are the Social Discipline Window(SDW), Fair Process (FP) and the Restorative Justice Typology (RJT).  It is suggested that if all the professional stakeholders involved in a Family Court matter, were trained in these restorative practice concepts, a more consistently TJ outcome would be likely. Finally the writer compares the current use of TJ in the United Kingdom with South Africa.

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