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Concourt mulls 40yr old rape

2009-08-13 22:08

Johannesburg - It would be almost impossible to cross-examine someone on a crime that took place more than 40 years ago, the Constitutional Court heard on Thursday.

Arguing for a man who may face a charge of allegedly raping a now 55-year-old woman when she was 13, advocate Jaap Cilliers said: “To examine someone who is 55/56 on her experience when she was 13.. it is.. with great respect, I would say almost impossible.”

He was arguing in the case of a woman who has been unsuccessful in trying to get her case prosecuted.

The alleged rapes took place between 1968 and 1970, but it was only while on a life skills course while serving a sentence for fraud that she decided to lay a charge of rape against the old family friend, who is now in his 70s.

She laid a criminal charge against him in 2006, but the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided not to prosecute. The woman was unhappy with this and the case was reopened, but again the DPP refused to prosecute.

She then tried a private prosecution in December 2007, but the High Court in the Northern Cape granted the man a permanent stay of prosecution.

The woman is challenging this in the Constitutional Court, saying that court did not properly consider the pervasiveness of child rape and the lasting consequences for her as an alleged victim.

Delay

Cilliers rejected her explanation that she took so long to lay the charge because she was in the power of the man, who was a family friend, and that her complaint against him could have lost her parents their jobs.

Cilliers said the woman had said she told the man to stop the alleged rapes when she was 16, and this showed she already had power over him by the time she was 16.

He rejected some of the judges’ suggestions that the complexities of child rape and the internalisation of blame could have led to the delay in laying the charge.

Cilliers said she told the man to stop when she 16, but she had waited another 35 years before laying the charge.

It was not correct to assume that all child rape victims did not come forward to tell their story.

"There are cases where they don’t, but there are numerous cases where they do," he submitted.