Judges: Indecent act ‘was as bad as rape’

2009-02-12 00:00

High Court Judges of Appeal yesterday ruled that the trauma caused by an indecent assault perpetrated on a pregnant woman by a motorist from whom she accepted a lift was tantamount to that of rape and said the only suitable sentence for the perpetrator was imprisonment.

Judge Malcolm Wallis with Judge Shyam Gyanda rejected submissions that the offence called for a fine or wholly suspended sentence and imposed a five-year jail sentence on Ramiah Vadivelo Naidoo (37) of Stanger in connection with the incident, which happened in June 2003 at Shakashead.

Due to a legal technicality, the Appeal Court was entitled to intervene in the sentence of six years imprisonment originally imposed on Naidoo, and to substitute it with a sentence the judges considered suitable.

Wallis said the experience the woman described must have been humiliating and distressing for her. He did not have the sense that the offence would have been any less shocking or stressful for her than actual rape, but said the court did take into account that she did not suffer physical harm and that the harm to her was psychological.

The Appeal Court also had regard to the fact that Naidoo was a first offender and was married with a family.

The judges found that Stanger magistrate, R.G. Khumalo, had correctly accepted the evidence of the woman, who testified that she had been waiting for a taxi outside a clinic when Naidoo offered her a lift.

According to her evidence, when Naidoo stopped the car and asked her how she would feel about having sex with a man who was not her boyfriend, she had replied that she would not do that.

She said he then drove the vehicle off the road into the sugar cane, started kissing her and touching her indecently and also forced her to perform an indecent act. She testified that Naidoo had a firearm.

After he had dropped her off, she wrote down the registration number of Naidoo’s car. She then walked to the police station to report the incident — a 45-minute walk.

Judge Wallis commented that it was unfortunate for the victim that she had been “extremely poorly treated” when she arrived at the police station.

According to her, the policeman in the charge office “laughed” saying she was a “prostitute” and that she was reporting the incident because the accused did not pay.

It was only after she cried and insisted she was not selling her body and said that she was pregnant that another officer had taken a statement from her.

She was subsequently contacted by the investigating officer and eventually an identikit was created on a computer, which led to the accused being identified.

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