Child abuse vic­tims ‘failed by the sys­tem’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - YOLANDE STANDER

AN ANTI-child abuse group on the Gar­den Route is in­ten­si­fy­ing its ef­forts to clamp down on re­lated of­fences fol­low­ing sev­eral glitches in court cases in­volv­ing al­leged sex crimes against chil­dren.

The Green Hearts, a Plet­ten­berg Bay non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion es­tab­lished to fight child abuse in the area, has joined work­shops by the SA Law Re­form Com­mis­sion to pro­vide in­put about over­haul­ing seem­ingly out­dated laws and has ap­proached the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity to urge it to pri­ori­tise cases in­volv­ing chil­dren.

This fol­lows sev­eral cases in which the group felt the sys­tem failed the young vic­tims.

In the lat­est in­ci­dent, an 83- year- old man, ini­tially ac­cused of rap­ing a nineyear-old girl from the Crags last year, was handed a sus­pended sen­tence in the Knysna Re­gional Court this week.

Just days ear­lier, it came to light that an­other case, against a man al­legedly linked to the dis­tri­bu­tion and pos­ses­sion of just short of 180 000 images of child abuse, in­clud­ing of babies be­ing raped and tor­tured, was at risk of be­ing struck off the court roll due to a bun­gle with the charge sheet.

Green Hearts spokes­woman Yvette Wilschut, said they were shocked when on Wed­nes­day the el­derly man, Chris­tian Don­son, en­tered into a plea agree­ment and was sub­se­quently con­victed and handed a five-year sus­pended sen­tence. While he was ini­tially ac­cused of rape, he pleaded guilty to sex­ual as­sault.

Wilschut said the sen­tence high­lighted the short­com­ings of the jus­tice sys­tem in terms of child abuse. “The mes­sage that we are send­ing out with this is that you can do what you want with chil­dren and end up back on the street, free to live your life, while the child grap­ples with the trauma of not only the crime, but the sub­se­quent court pro­ceed­ings with very lit­tle sup­port.”

She said in the sec­ond case, in­volv­ing a Plet­ten­berg Bay com­puter en­gi­neer – ac­cused of hav­ing links to a child pornog­ra­phy net­work – mag­is­trate Eu­ge­nia Ja­cobs had in­di­cated that there was a pos­si­bil­ity the mat­ter could be struck off the court roll be­cause of is­sues with the charge sheet.

The 38-year- old man, who has not pleaded, was ar­rested in Jan­uary last year. Po­lice found sec­tions of files con­tain­ing thou­sands of images and videos of child pornog­ra­phy as well as in­ter­net ad­dresses of more than 300 other al­leged pae­dophiles.

Dur­ing his lat­est court ap­pear­ance, his lawyer, Carl Jeppe, asked for the mat­ter to be struck off the roll af­ter pros­e­cu­tor Chamelle Bas­tian in­di­cated the of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions had de­cided the ac­cused would be in­di­vid­u­ally charged for each of the 179 000 images.

Each im­age would also have to be de­scribed.

Bas­tian said for­mu­lat­ing this would take up to three months.

Jeppe said this was un­ac­cept­able and this “mam­moth task” would take much longer.

The case was post­poned for a fi­nal time to Novem­ber 30. – Gar­den Route Me­dia

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