'It's a tough road we're walking' - Sisters in decades-old indecent assault matter after postponement

2019-08-15 14:01
Claudine Shiels and Lisa van der Merwe (Kamva Somdyala, News24).

Claudine Shiels and Lisa van der Merwe (Kamva Somdyala, News24).

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The trial of two men embroiled in decades-old indecent assault allegations can only be heard in December after it emerged that one of the men is being treated for a medical condition and is unable to appear in court.

Sisters Claudine Shiels and Lisa van der Merwe, who brought the case to the attention of police and the National Prosecuting Authority, expressed their disappointment at the delay but said they were in for the long haul.

Speaking outside the Wynberg Magistrate's Court after the postponement on Thursday, Shiels said "it's tough, but we will not be put off".

Tough road

The two men, now in their 70s, have not yet pleaded to the charges.

"It's a tough road we're walking. This delay has disappointed us, but it has not put us off. We've kept going for 45 years and we know how to keep going," Shiels said.

The historic "Frankel 8" judgment, which related to allegations of abuse against billionaire broker Sydney Frankel by eight people, laid the foundation for the sisters to pursue their case.

READ MORE: 'Whatever difficulties we faced are now worthwhile' - Frankel 8 victim

Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) founding director Miranda Jordan said that the sisters' case would be the fourth decades-old case dealing with sexual crime, but the first dealing with decades-old allegations of indecent assault after the Frankel judgment.

In the judgment, the court ruled that the Criminal Procedure Act be amended to remove the limit, or prescription, of 20 years for the prosecution of indecent assault, which is what their allegations would have been termed in the 1970s when the alleged incidents happened.

Memories are real, sharp and painful 

Before the Frankel 8 judgment, rape and compelled rape (such as for forced pornography) were the only sexual crimes that did not have a 20-year cut-off date for prosecution or prescription.

Shiels revealed her emotions at seeing one of the men in court, saying it was nerve-racking.

"I caught a glimpse of one of them and it was nerve-racking; you are taken right back to your bedroom when you were a little girl. Decades have gone by, but the memories of that man in your bedroom doing what he did are very real, sharp and painful," she said. 

"I'm now older and stronger and I will deal with that."

The trial will now be heard on December 9.

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Read more on:    cape town  |  courts  |  crime

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