Neighbours face heat

2014-06-03 00:00

THE neighbours, family and members of the public who knew about — but did not report — the alleged sexual and physical torture that took place at the “House of Horrors” in Springs, may be charged with defeating the ends of justice.

Neighbours were yesterday quoted in the media telling how they saw a 36-year-old man sjambok his wife and keep his five children, aged between the two and 16, captive all of their lives. But they were too afraid of the short-tempered man to interfere.

Several neighbours initially said they were unaware of the existence of the five children, but since news of the tortured family in the House of Horrors broke, others came forward to say they had been aware of the sadistic deeds being committed in the house.

Social networks have been abuzz with rumours, while some people told newspapers they knew about the alleged sexual and physical torture in the house.

One woman told a newspaper the 16-year-old girl had told her that her father was abusing her sexually. Another said she had seen several times how the man would assault and torture his wife, children and other people.

Family members close to the accused say they are shocked that several people believe the 16-year-old girl was the real mother of the two-year-old girl among the five children rescued from the house.

The investigating officer in the case, Warrant Officer Rudi Jansen, said although several rumours were doing the rounds no one had yet made statements at the police.

Jansen said he only read about the allegations in newspapers and on social networks, but no one had spoken to the police after the news appeared in the paper to say they had suspected something.

He said his team will now investigate all the claims.

“We [the police] must go visit the people who are now suddenly talking so freely to the media to take down statements.

“Gossip between people remains just that, gossip, but as soon as people go on record in a newspaper or on social media it becomes more serious. The gossip can then even be libel. Such people can even be charged with defeating the ends of justice.”

Martin Scheepers, of the Honey law firm in Bloemfontein, said in terms of the Sexual Offences Act, the public must report torture to the police or social workers.

He said the act focused especially on sexual crimes against children and people with disabilities.

“Even if people only suspect that a child is being sexually molested, they must report it to the police.”

He said failure to do so may lead to the criminal prosecution of people who suspected something was amiss, but did nothing to report it.

“The police can also force those who talked about physical or sexual abuse in the media to make statements and even to testify in court.

“And the police can use the newspaper reports to charge the people quoted in the articles with defeating the ends of justice.”

He said if people were found guilty of obstructing justice they could be fined or receive a sentence of five years’ imprisonment or even both.

Scheepers added the state will decide if they will charge people or call them as witnesses in the court case.

Gita Dennen, of Childline in Gauteng, said people did not have to worry about being counter-charged with libel or crimen injuria should they report physical or sexual abuse of children to the police and the accused is later found innocent.

The complainant will not be charged, as he or she has simply done as the law required, said Dennen.

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