The backlog in DNA testing in cases of violent crimes has been flagged by a KwaZulu-Natal judge after a rape accused, who was set free pending DNA analysis, went on to rape and murder a child.
In April last year it was reported that the backlog, caused in part by a dispute with a service provider, stood at more than 210,000 cases.
Judge Mohini Moodley, sitting in the Mthunzini circuit court, said the matter before her was a “clear example” of the tragic consequences of how the backlog affected victims of gender-based violence and the administration of justice.
The Judge said:
The rapist, who has now been convicted and sentenced to serve 20 years imprisonment, cannot be named because he was under the age of 18 when he committed the crimes.
He was 16 years old in September 2019 when he attacked his first victim - who was also 16 - as she was walking to Sunday school. He had a knife and stalked her until she was in an isolated area.
He was arrested shortly afterwards but charges were provisionally withdrawn. He was freed pending the return of the DNA analysis from the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory.
Nine months later, in June 2021, he attacked and raped an 11-year-old child. He then killed her, apparently because she had threatened to tell her uncle what he had done.
He was arrested again and charged.
When the trial began before Judge Moodley earlier this year, he pleaded not guilty to the rape and murder charges.
But, Judge Moodley said, after his first victim gave evidence, he “rethought his plea” and admitted to committing the crimes.
In sentencing him, the dilemma facing the judge was that he was a child-offender and a first offender.
Judge Moodley said the young rape victim had described how she had struggled to escape:
“She sustained very painful injuries and aggravated trauma. It is testament to her bravery and resilience that she has now passed her Grade 12 examinations.”
The judge said while the accused had admitted to raping and murdering the 11-year-old, the post mortem report indicated that he had perpetrated more violence on her than he had admitted to.
“She was completely vulnerable and unable to defend herself.”
The judge noted that at the time, the accused was already a suspect in the first rape “but was undeterred” and that he had committed the crimes “sequentially” when he was already aware of the legal consequences of the first rape.
“The deliberate killing of a child to protect himself aggravates his culpability which his age cannot detract from,” she said, noting that he had only pleaded guilty when it was clear the evidence against him was overwhelming.
The judge said she could not ignore the fact that after he raped the first time, charges were provisionally withdrawn because of the delay in obtaining the DNA result.
The prosecutor had attempted to explain the stance of the prosecuting authority in these cases and the risk that the accused might be discharged because of delays in proceeding to trial.
“I am also aware of the media reports and the concern raised with the Minister of Justice and the President of this country of the adverse impact of the DNA delays on the victims of gender-based violence and the administration of justice,” she said.
Judge Moodley said a long prison term - an effective 20 years - would give the accused the opportunity to benefit from the rehabilitative and educational programmes available in prison and teach him to exercise self-restraint and respect for others.