High Court overturns 'lenient' sentence for sex offender

2017-07-21 16:57
High court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

High court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Child sex offender Andre Petrus Retief, convicted of 2 130 charges two years ago, has been sentenced to eight years behind bars after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) won its appeal in the Western Cape High Court on Friday.

The father of two from Durbanville, who was arrested in January 2011 when a house sitter came across his self-made child porn collection, pleaded guilty to the charges in the Parow Regional Court in 2015 and was handed a sentence of eight years in jail, wholly suspended for five years.

The NPA appealed what it considered a "lenient, inappropriate and disproportionate" sentence.

Retief was found in possession of a vast number of child abuse images he had collected over 10 years. Among his victims were children aged 6, 8 and 9 years old, who were abused while they slept.

He used a cellphone, video recorder and camera to create material of him abusing the children of his friends and neighbours.

READ: NPA slams 'shocking' suspended sentence for man guilty of 2 130 child sex offences

'Willing participant'

The State believed there were no circumstances to justifying a deviation from the prescribed minimum sentence of 10 years for the production of child pornography.

During his initial sentencing, the magistrate at the regional court said that some of the children had been asleep at the time of their photos being taken, apart from one teenager that "was although a child, a willing participant sometimes [egging] the accused on to take these pictures of herself".

She also said the accused was "clearly" not a danger to the community, no evidence was presented by the State that Retief had violent tendencies, and that he had been attending programmes to "help him from resisting or committing offences of this type of nature".

Judge Andre Le Grange and acting Judge Leslie Weinkove concurred that the magistrate had in their view "misdirected herself in certain respects".

"The fact that the complainants were unaware of the nature of the sexual assault… because they were asleep can hardly be regarded as a factor that diminished the seriousness of the offense. In fact, [Retief] physically touched his victims," they said in their judgment.

The same applied to the photos of the teenager, they continued, as the videos and footage of her could not be regarded as harmless or less serious.

"In our view it is incongruous to suggest that [she] was a 'willing participant' in the true sense of the word."

New sentence

Retief was calculated and manipulative, they said.

"To suggest that he is not a danger to society is simply misguided."

Le Grange and Weinkove said that there were considerable mitigating factors: A non-custodial sentence "would not achieve an appropriate balance between the other equally important factors, namely the seriousness of the offences and the interest of society".

It would unduly focus on his rehabilitation and lessen the "retribution and prevention elements of sentence", to the extent of bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.

Retief's previous sentence was set aside, and a "more just and equitable" one of an effective 10 years' imprisonment of which two years is conditionally suspended was handed down.

Read more on:    npa  |  cape town  |  child abuse  |  crime

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