Res­tau­rant man guilty of date rape at party

Land­mark ver­dict, say the po­lice

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - SARAH EVANS

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.

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