Restaurant man guilty of date rape at party
Landmark verdict, say the police
IN A LANDMARK verdict in court this week, a former Spur restaurant manager was found guilty of rape and assault after spiking a 21st “birthday cocktail” with the drug benzodiazepine and then raping the birthday girl’s cousin.
The police are calling the verdict in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court against Matthew Minnies a “victory for rape victims”.
Kimberley police spokesman Constable Sergio Kock said the verdict was important because it set a precedent for date rape cases, where convictions are particularly rare.
Victims usually cannot remember the rape and that, combined with fear of public humiliation, often prevents them from laying charges at all. Anti-rape groups say date rape is on the increase in SA.
In the Minnies case, the victim, a single woman in her 30s, drank a spiked cocktail intended for her cousin, who was the birthday girl and Minnies’ former girlfriend.
Magistrate Pumelele Hole said he believed Minnies spiked his ex-girlfriend’s drink because he wanted to get back together again.
However, the ex-girlfriend didn’t like the taste of the cocktail, and gave it to her cousin.
When she was visibly intoxicated, staggering and slurring her speech, Minnies took her to a pavilion at Kimberley Boys’ High School, where the func- tion was being held, and raped her.
Defence lawyer JC Berg argued that it could not be proven that the woman was under the influence of the drug at the time of the rape. He said her memory loss could have been caused by alcohol and that she could have been drugged and raped after the party.
However, Hole said that the fact that she had lost her memory around the time of the rape, combined with other crucial testimonies, proved otherwise.
During the trial, medical experts testified that the drug typically takes 20 to 30 minutes to take effect. The victim is then rendered semi-conscious, is intoxicated and will have total memory loss.
After initially denying any sexual contact, Minnies admitted consensual sex with the cousin and said she had overwhelmed him with sexual advances which he at first had refused.
The case hinged on two points, said the magistrate. First, was the cousin sober enough to knowingly have consented to sex? Second, if she was not sober, was Minnies aware of this?
Minnies said that the cousin looked “fine” and “normal”. Hole, however, said Minnies’ was a “lone voice” as all the other witnesses said that the victim was obviously drunk.
Hole found the cousin had been drugged before the rape and that Minnies had known about the effects of the drug.
He was acquitted of a charge of attempted murder. Hole found that although Minnies gave the woman a near fatal amount of benzodiazepine, he did not intend to kill her.
Rapewise, a national organisation, says it receives up to 80 calls a month from concerned mothers, rape survivors and school psychologists – up more than 12 percent from last year.
John Buswell, CEO of Rapewise, said the conviction was a “major victory” not only because only one in 20 rapes were reported, but also because many date-rapists were serial offenders.
Benzodiazepine was a common choice for date-rapists and, like many other date-rape drugs, it caused complete memory loss for the victim.
The women sometimes feared reporting the crime because they blamed themselves, believing that she could have provoked the rape by accepting a drink from their attacker, or flirting with him.
Buswell said even though a victim did not remember the rape she was aware that her body had been violated. Victims often felt that they could have prevented the rape.
Minnies will be sentenced on July 29.