- KwaZulu-Natal Judge Mohini Moodley has flagged the consequences of the backlog in DNA testing.
- This was after a rape accused, who had been provisionally set free pending DNA tests, went on to rape and murder a child.
- The rapist, who has now been convicted and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment, cannot be named because he was a minor when he committed the crimes.
The backlog in DNA testing in cases of violent crime 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, was more than 210 000 cases.
Judge Mohini Moodley, sitting in the Mtunzini Circuit Court, said the matter before her was a "clear example" of the tragic consequences of the backlog. The judge said it affected victims of gender-based violence and the administration of justice.
The judge said:
The rapist, who has now been convicted and sentenced to 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 reached an isolated area.
He was arrested shortly after the incident, but the charges were provisionally withdrawn.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 2020, 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 had been a child at the time of the offences and a first-time offender.
Judge Moodley said the young rape victim had described how she had struggled to escape.
"Although she testified bravely, she was unable to remain calm, and when she turned to face and identify the accused, she broke down, revealing the depth and effect of the traumatic assault on her.
"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.
The judge noted that at the time the accused was already a suspect in the first rape "but was undeterred". The judge said 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 rapist the opportunity to benefit from the rehabilitative and educational programmes available in prison and teach him to exercise self-restraint and respect for others.
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