Child abuse victims ‘failed by the system’
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abuse in the area, has joined workshops by the SA Law Reform Commission to provide input about overhauling seemingly outdated laws and has approached the National Prosecuting Authority to urge it to prioritise cases involving children.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