- Gerhard Ackerman, alleged kingpin of a child sex ring in Johannesburg, has pleaded not guilty to 740 charges.
- After pleading, the State called its first witness, a clinical psychologist who assessed the alleged child victims.
- She has recommended that the victims testify using a CCTV link so they aren’t physically in court.
The first witness in the trial of Gerhard Ackerman, alleged kingpin of a child sex ring in Johannesburg, has testified that some of the alleged victims need to testify via a video link with an intermediary.
Ackerman, 52, appeared in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday where he pleaded not guilty to 740 charges.
The charges mostly relate to a child sex ring he allegedly ran with the involvement of his former co-accused, senior advocate and acting judge Paul Kennedy, according to the indictment.
Kennedy died by suicide before the trial started.
Ackerman has been charged with hundreds of counts of possession of child pornography, several counts of rape, sexual assaults, human trafficking and sexual grooming.
After pleading not guilty and offering no plea explanation, the State prosecutor, advocate Valencia Dube, called her first witness to the stand, Colonel Kirsten Clark.
Clark, a clinical psychologist with the South African Police Service, had assessed the alleged victims.
She told the court that she conducted a psychological assessment of the children with a focus on them testifying in court, their ability to take the oath and their ability to consent to sex.
Clark then went through the reports for six of them, where she cited their clinical histories, mental challenges before and after the alleged crimes and their competency to testify in court.
For example, in one report, she explained that the person had a troubled childhood and had attempted suicide before he was allegedly raped and attempted suicide for a second time after the ordeal.
She testified that this child could also be considered a victim of human trafficking.
In all her reports, she found all those mentioned would make competent witnesses, could take the oath and understood consent.
She also found that they were vulnerable and as such recommended that all testify via CCTV link, so they would not be physically in court.
With some of them suffering from anxiety and panic attacks, she also recommended that they be allowed to testify with an intermediary.
This was not only the case for those who are still minors.
One child, who was 9 years old when he was allegedly accosted by Ackerman, is now 24.
Clark found that he suffered from generalised anxiety disorder and would benefit from testifying via CCTV link.
The trial was adjourned early on Tuesday as the power went out in the courtroom.
Clark will continue taking the court through the victim reports on Wednesday.