Alcohol abuse behind baby's death, says judge

2016-10-13 22:58

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Cape Town - A Western Cape judge was upset that nobody went to the aid of a young mother who was battling to care properly for her baby, who died at just one month old.

Handing down judgment in the case of the murder of little Atnik Persent at a farm in Sandvlei, near Montagu, Judge H Van Staden painted a picture of a sad existence of undereducated farmworkers who spent their free time drinking and fighting among themselves.

In the dock was 35-year-old Abraham Bothman, who had been on trial for the assault and murder of the infant in April 2014.

Van Staden said he could not find without a reasonable doubt that Bothman killed the baby, but he was certain that the man did not call for an ambulance or rush the baby to hospital on that fateful night of April 20, 2014, when the baby had been attacked in a way that Van Staden said appeared to be murder.

He said that after tracing the child's mother, the complainant, a report was compiled for the court on her. She came from a family troubled by alcohol and physical abuse and seemed to have nobody to help her with her new baby.

She was 16 at the time and Bothman was living with her. She had in the meantime worked on turning her life around, attending parenting courses and support groups.

But Van Staden was not prepared to let Bothman walk away scot-free and, drawing on other laws and the Constitution's guarantees on the protection of children, he found Bothman's actions after the child was assaulted extremely negligent. 

He referred to reports presented to the court to paint a picture of a man with a short fuse who had only gone to school until Grade 6, with no trade or professional skills. All he could do was be a farm hand. His employer had testified that he used to resign in a huff only to return later to ask for his job back.

An example for the community

He said the baby's mother, who laid the charge of assault and murder against him, was young when she had the infant. At 16 she did not know how to care for the baby and lived on a farm where people drank during the week, and over the weekend drank heavily and fought among themselves.

He noted that she said her boyfriend had looked after her and the baby well, even buying them clothes. His fellow awaiting trial prisoners said he had not been the fighting type.

Van Staden said that alcohol played a huge role in the baby's death and that the farmworkers of Sandvlei need to know the dangers of alcohol abuse to prevent a similar tragedy.

Bothman was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of neglecting the child and was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for three years. He had been in prison awaiting trial for almost two years already.

He was also sentenced to two years' community service and house arrest from 20:00 to 07:00. He has to attend an anger management programme, a life skills course and alcohol rehabilitation and it must all be done close to home so that he can set an example to the community.

He is only allowed to leave his home to attend to those activities and church.

He can have Sunday between 9:00 and 13:00 to himself.

He is also not allowed to consume alcohol.

Read more on:    cape town  |  child abuse

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