No sign of end to the rape scourge

2017-07-12 13:48
Rape on the rise despite harsh sentences.

Rape on the rise despite harsh sentences. (File)

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Rape seems to be on the rise in KwaZulu-Natal despite heavy sentences being imposed on perpetrators by the courts.

This emerged in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Tuesday when judges Daya Pillay and Nkosinathi Chili dealt with an appeal by a 45-year-old man who had raped two children, aged three and five years old.

The man from Madadeni in the Newcastle area appealed against his sentence of life imprisonment but the judges found there were no grounds to reduce the sentence and confirmed it.

Judge Pillay said that as had been pointed out by state advocate Johan du Toit, when the victims were children it was difficult to look beyond their vulnerability and the fact that they are really “no-go zones” as far as rape and sexual offences were concerned.

The judge said it was difficult to find compelling and substantial circumstances that justified less than the minimum prescribed sentence of life imprisonment for the rape of children.

There have however been occasions when courts had found circumstances justifying a lesser sentence existed, such as when the offender was of an advanced age, or examples where “a grandfather” pleaded guilty and asked the court for leniency.

She said in the present case there were no circumstances that could justify less than life imprisonment. The rapes would blight the children for the rest of their lives. “I’m afraid the appellant will have to pay the full price,” said the judge.

During the appeal Judge Pillay questioned Du Toit and legal aid representative Bongani Mbatha, based on their own individual experiences, about whether or not there were any signs that the rape scourge was abating in the province.

Both said they personally believed it was increasing.

“Their views tally with the court’s own experience, namely that more than 50% of the workload of the appeal court deals with rape ... and this includes the rape of children,” said Judge Pillay.

She said of the four appeals that came before court yesterday, three were rape cases and in two of these the victims were children. “There is no sign of the rape scourge abating notwithstanding the very heavy sentences that are imposed by the courts. Sentences can’t get heavier than life,” she added.

The judge said the reasons are not clear but said it appeared as if perpetrators thought they could get away with it and that the fabric of society was “seriously frayed”.

She said much depends on the community’s willingness to bring perpetrators to book.

The court records revealed the perpetrator lived in the same neighbourhood as the two children, whom he had called to his room, and then raped each of them in September 2008.

In reply to questions asked of them by the judge, both Du Toit and Mbatha said they believe that rape is on the increase.

Du Toit estimated that 50% to 60% of the appeals he has been involved in recently were rape matters.

Mbatha agreed that in the space of a month at least 50% of the cases he deals with are rape cases and said an increasing number of them are serious enough to be in the high court.

“The question is why is there no sign of the scourge abating? Is it the sentences or that police and prosecutors don’t do their job or is is just that people think they can get away with it?” asked Pillay.

Du Toit said although he had no official statistics available he recalled that between 2007 and 2009 the office of the KZN director of public prosecutions conducted a project concerning rape of children under 12.

“In an 18-month period I recall that we had 2 000 children under 12 years.”

He added that 95% of the children were raped by people known to them, and only five percent by unknown perpetrators.

Du Toit added that he also deals with child justice matters concerning rapes of children by other children of which there can be up to “20 or 30” cases in a month. “These are just rapes by children.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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