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

2017-06-19 17:59
High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Johannesburg - After being shrouded in fear and doubt that no-one would believe them, one of the Frankel 8 victims felt a sense of gratitude after the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg lifted a 20-year "expiry date" on prosecuting sexual offences.

Speaking to News24 on Monday following the judgment, Nicci Diamond said the group had spent three years fighting for something that was close to their hearts.

Earlier on Monday, the High Court declared Section 18 of the Criminal Procedure Act unconstitutional, after it was challenged by the alleged victims of the late billionaire Sydney Frankel.

"We are humbled and this is such an incredible feeling. We had so much fear and doubt that we would not be believed but we have a deep sense of gratitude to the judicial system of South Africa," Diamond said.

"Children have a safe place to come to where they will be believed. Whatever difficulties we faced are now worthwhile because we were able to change the law."

READ: High Court strikes down 20-year 'expiry date' on prosecuting sexual offences

Highs and lows

The 48-year-old said she and other victims faced a series of highs and lows, but: "When one [victim] was feeling low, we supported each other."

Diamond and seven others claimed they were sexually assaulted by Frankel as long ago as 30 years before his death.

They laid criminal charges in 2015, but their case never went ahead due to the limitation of the statute of prosecution.

Frankel died of cancer in his Johannesburg home on April 13, 2017. He was 68.

Under the present law, the right to initiate prosecution lapses after 20 years for crimes of sexual assault.

This, however, does not apply to other serious offences, like murder, treason, kidnapping, genocide, and rape.

The eight applicants had approached the court to have Section 18 of the CPA declared unconstitutional, arguing that the current limitation infringed on their right to dignity.

They were also lobbying for Section 18 to be struck down for adults as well as for children.

'Extremely happy'

Ian Levitt, representing the Frankel 8, said the ruling on Monday was a victory for children, victims and survivors of abuse.

"We are extremely happy with the outcome of the Constitutional Court challenge in the High Court," Levitt told reporters in court.

Levitt said anyone who is sexually abused at any stage will now have the right to prosecute their abusers above and beyond 20 years; however, the order would have to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

"This is really… massive for those survivors that have never had a voice that they have tried to get redress from the law and the law has said: 'Sorry we protect perpetrators more than we can give you any justice'," he said.

Director for Women and Men Against Child Abuse Miranda Friedmann thanked the Frankel 8 for their bravery.

She said they will be profiling the case and wanted to see more people who have been victims of abuse claim damages.

"The amount of therapy… [and] support that the victims of sexual abuse require - we must remember that sexual abuse is a life sentence," she said.

The court declared that Section 18 of the CPA was inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid, to the extent that it bars the right to institute a prosecution for all sexual offences - other than those listed in Section 18 - after 20 years has passed since the time of the offence.

The court said the declaration of constitutional invalidity had been suspended for a period of 18 months, in order to allow Parliament to remedy the constitutional defect.

Levitt said they would now approach the Constitutional Court - which is the highest court in the land - to confirm the order.

The Women's Legal Centre, The Teddy Bear Clinic (TTBC), and Lawyers for Human Rights supported the Frankel 8 case in the matter.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime  |  judiciary

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