SA has most progressive judiciary in the world – anti-abuse group


A number of "very positive rulings" have shown that South Africa does indeed have the most progressive judiciary in the world, rights group Women and Men against Child Abuse (WMACA) has said.

Monday marked the end of 16 Days of Activism for 2018, a year which the organisation said had "not just the same disparaging number of new cases", but also landmark court outcomes.

In November, the WMACA submitted an application against convicted rapist Bob Hewitt's bid to have his prison sentence converted into house arrest, warning it would "be there in future to fight any such attempt by Hewitt to regain his freedom before his jail sentence is served in full".

READ: Convicted rapist and ex-tennis star Bob Hewitt applies for parole

Hewitt, 78, was sentenced to six years in prison for the rape of two young women and the sexual assault of another who he coached in the 1980s and 1990s.

"Since his age has already been a factor used in mitigation during sentencing, we believed that sending him home after only two years would be a form of double jeopardy – for someone who has shown no remorse nor apology for his victims, Hewitt certainly can't rely upon society to show him any consideration for the fact that he is now an old man," it said in a statement.

The WMACA said it also wanted to "take stock" of the landmark Frankel 8 matter in which the alleged abuse survivors were pursuing a civil settlement against the late Sidney Frankel's estate to "set a precedent that if you abuse children, the law can still hold you accountable after your death".

The eight claimed they were sexually assaulted by Frankel as long ago as 30 years before his death and laid criminal charges in 2015.

Their case never went ahead due to the limitation of the statute of prosecution.

READ MORE: Creating a 'random cut-off time' for sexual assault victims is irrational - Frankel 8 lawyer

'Groundbreaking' ruling

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

"The Frankel 8 wanted to pursue a criminal case against their abuser but were unable to due to two primary historical legal legacies still rooted in pre-democratic law. These were the definitions of different forms of sexual abuse and how these related to both time and gender," the organisation explained.

"They fought a battle that challenged the legal framework that made certain sexual crimes against children 'less bad' by saying they could not be prosecuted after a 20-year time lapse, while others had no time limit for prosecution.

"The second battle was for equality of gender under the law as certain definitions of sexual crimes excluded certain genders. The issue of time and gender in the law both limited the rights of adult survivors to seek criminal justice and a Constitutional Court has rectified this. All persons, regardless of how long ago the abuse was, what kind of abuse it was and what gender they were, can now request criminal justice."

The organisation also described Judge Peet Johnson's ruling that former Parktown Boys' High School assistant water polo coach Collan Rex couldn't use his own abuse as a mitigating factor in sentencing  as "extremely groundbreaking".

ALSO READ: 'We thought we would never get justice' – survivor of Parktown Boys' sexual assault

"We as a society are one step closer to realising that your own abuse doesn't give you carte blanche on a next generation of youth."

Rex was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexual assault and an additional three years for common assault after he pleaded guilty to 144 counts of sexual assault and 12 counts of common assault. The court acquitted him of some of the charges.

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