Rape accused in new bail bid

2017-03-15 15:02
Former school counsellor charged with abusing young boys attempts to get bail for the fourth time.

Former school counsellor charged with abusing young boys attempts to get bail for the fourth time. (File)

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The former Pietermaritzburg school counsellor charged with raping young pupils is not giving up his fight for bail after being in custody for nearly nine months.

The counsellor, who was arrested on June 2 last year, lodged a bail appeal in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Tuesday.

The appeal is against the latest refusal by local magistrate M. Boikhutso to grant him bail based on alleged “new facts” on November 30 last year.

Tuesday’s bid was his fourth attempt to get bail.

His fate is now in the hands of Acting Judge Sidwell Bongani Mngadi, who reserved judgment after considering arguments for and against bail being granted to the counsellor on Tuesday.

In January this year the prosecution indicted the counsellor to stand trial in the Pietermaritzburg high court between July 31 and August 25 this year in connection with 10 counts of rape and sexual assault of young boys. It was indicated that further charges could, however, still be added.

The counsellor so far also faces another two counts of rape allegedly involving an as yet undisclosed “accomplice”, in the magistrate’s court.

That matter is due to return to court on Monday, March 20.

Appealing the refusal of the counsellor’s bail yesterday, defence advocate Brad Osborne complained that despite the passage of time the state has not yet given them a copy of the investigation docket — to which the defence is entitled, to prepare for trial.

In fact he said the investigation appears to be ongoing and the counsellor is “expected to languish in jail and is effectively held hostage by the state while the matter never seems to reach finality”.

He also said that the presiding magistrate who has refused to give him bail has “raised the bar to such a high level” that it is impossible for the counsellor to satisfy any (legal) burden to get bail.

Osborne said it is not legally required for the counsellor to have to “prove his innocence” in order to get bail. The counsellor has all along, in any case, said he intends pleading not guilty.

Asked by the judge if the defence considers the evidence against the counsellor as “strong”, Osborne said “with hindsight” it does not appear to be strong.

He said the defence has never seen any independent evidence to corroborate the versions of the individual children. The only evidence to the effect that the case is “strong” is that of the investigating officer, he said.

He also said that the children cannot give dates or times when the alleged crimes happened.

In written arguments the state advocate in charge of the case, Frank van Heerden, however, said the state believes it does have a strong case. He said the investigating officer had obtained statements from the alleged victims backed up by medical reports indicating there was “blunt penetration” in respect of some of the children.

Van Heerden detailed a number of reasons the state is still opposed to the counsellor’s release on bail. He said for example the counsellor’s advocate had said bail conditions could prevent the man from entering Pietermaritzburg and this would ensure protection for the witnesses.

“I respectfully disagree,” said Van Heerden. He said that while in custody the man had written letters to the mother of one of the alleged victims and it “also appears” he wrote to one of the children. He also asked the mother to “remove exhibits” and evidence that was necessary for the state case from his rented apartment.

This was disputed by Osborne, who said the woman concerned was not a state witness at the time the counsellor wrote to her. She was also the same person who had later tried to blackmail the counsellor, encouraged him to commit suicide and even suggested that he should make her the sole beneficiary to his estate. He told the acting judge there was nothing sinister about the man wanting to remove his property from his rented premises as he was in jail and had to move out as he could no longer pay the rent.

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