Child sex ring case: Court says alleged victims may testify via video link

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Gerhard Ackerman.
Gerhard Ackerman.
Alex Mitchley/News24
  • Gerhard Ackerman is on trial facing 740 charges relating to a child sex ring he allegedly ran.
  • The State's first witness, a psychologist, recommended that the alleged victims testify via video link because of their vulnerability. 
  • The court ordered that the complainants be allowed to testify in camera, via a video link, and with the help of an intermediary. 

The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has ordered that the alleged child victims of Gerhard Ackerman be allowed to testify in closed court and via a video link so that they don’t have to face the accused. 

Ackerman, who is accused of running a child sex ring, appeared in court on Wednesday where his trial continued. 

The State’s first witness, Colonel Kirsten Clark, a clinical psychologist with the South African Police Service, had testified about the vulnerability of the complainants.

She recommended that they be allowed to testify via CCTV so that they would not have to be in the court with Ackerman. 

Clark also recommended that complainants who were vulnerable be allowed to testify with the help of an intermediary. 

While the defence did not object to them testifying via a video link, it initially raised issues around the use of an intermediary. 

Ackerman’s legal-aid attorney Herman Alberts said that it did not make sense for an intermediary to help the complainants because they are now in their mid- to late teens.

An intermediary generally listens to questions posed and translates them to child witnesses in a way that makes sense to them. 

Clark explained that the intermediary did not need to translate questions as the teenagers were competent to answer questions directly posed to them. 

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However, given their psychological issues, they would need the support of a person while testifying. 

She said the intermediary would play a limited supportive role to pacify and comfort the complainants during their testimonies.

After the intermediary’s role was explained to the court, Alberts said they no longer objected to the presence of someone helping the victims in a limited sense as described by Clark. 

Following the arguments, Judge Ismail Mahomed ordered

  • That the evidence of the alleged victims can be heard in camera, meaning their testimony will be closed to the public and media.
  • That the alleged victims are allowed to testify via a video link.
  • That some of the complainants be assisted by an intermediary. 

Ackerman had pleaded not guilty to 740 charges, including possession of child pornography, rape of a minor, sexual assault, sexual grooming of a minor and human trafficking.

He was originally arrested alongside senior advocate and acting judge Paul Kennedy, who was charged with similar offences.

Kennedy died by suicide before the trial started. 

The indictment paints a picture of Ackerman running a child sex ring where children were allegedly trafficked, groomed and trained to perform sexual acts with clients in exchange for money. 

The trial is expected to continue on Thursday.

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