Tough case for court in coach trial

No cur­rent leg­is­la­tion on charges

Pretoria News Weekend - - NEWS - SHAIN GERMANER SHAIN.GERMANER@INL.CO.ZA

HE MAY have pleaded guilty to 144 charges of sex­ual as­sault, but sen­tenc­ing the Park­town Boys’ High wa­ter polo coach ac­cused of mo­lest­ing 23 pupils will be tricky for the court.

This week, Col­lan Rex ini­tially pleaded not guilty to the 327 charges against him, but then re­leased a plea state­ment to the High Court sit­ting in Palm Ridge where he ad­mit­ted to sex­u­ally as­sault­ing 12 of the com­plainants on 144 counts.

Among the ad­mis­sions, the 22-year-old ad­mit­ted that he sub­jected the pupils – aged be­tween 13 and 16 – to dozens of in­ci­dents of dry hump­ing and gen­i­tal touch­ing, all of which he ad­mit­ted con­sti­tuted sex­ual as­sault.

Act­ing Judge Peet John­son im­me­di­ately in­formed Rex and his lawyer, ad­vo­cate Wil­liam Robertse, that this was ef­fec­tively plead­ing guilty to the 144 charges, which both ac­cepted.

The former teacher is still fac­ing a fur­ther 183 charges rang­ing from rape, sex­ual as­sault, at­tempted mur­der, show­ing pornog­ra­phy to mi­nors and sex­ual groom­ing, all re­lat­ing to in­ci­dents dur­ing his short ten­ure at the school be­tween 2015 and 2016.

Sources close to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed to In­de­pen­dent Me­dia last year that the abuse w had only been un­cov­ered af­ter a pupil ap­proached the school’s se­cu­rity to look through CCTV footage to find a miss­ing bag.

As se­cu­rity searched the tapes, they stum­bled on footage of the ac­cused as­sault­ing a pupil.

The teenager was ap­proached and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan, un­cov­er­ing more than a dozen other pupils who came for­ward with stories of sim­i­lar in­ci­dents.

Af­ter the in­ci­dent was re­vealed in the me­dia, even more pupils ap­proached the school’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, form­ing the 23-strong set of 14- to 16-year-old com­plainants set to tes­tify against the coach.

While this week’s guilty pleas will shorten the crim­i­nal trial sig­nif­i­cantly, a crim­i­nal law ex­pert has told In­de­pen­dent Me­dia that it is dif­fi­cult to pre­dict what kind of sen­tence he could ex­pect for 144 counts of sex­ual as­sault.

Stephen Tu­son, ad­junct crim­i­nal law pro­fes­sor at Wits Univer­sity, said the min­i­mum sen­tences on sex­ual as­sault did not seem to be dic­tated by any cur­rent leg­is­la­tion, ul­ti­mately leav­ing such de­ci­sions ex­clu­sively in the hands of the court.

While rape has a min­i­mum pre­scribed sen­tence of life im­pris­on­ment, sex­ual as­sault has no such rule.

While one source at the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity said that based on pre­vi­ous case law, each charge could hold a pos­si­ble sen­tence of three to seven years, Tu­son said the court could still con­struct a custom sen­tence in this mat­ter.

Tu­son said that in sit­u­a­tions where the mul­ti­ple charges were linked to a sin­gle crim­i­nal in­ci­dent, the sen­tences would likely run to­gether.

How­ever, in Rex’s mat­ter, the sheer num­ber of com­plainants and the vast num­ber of charges would likely be a ma­jor ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tor for Judge John­son.

“The in­ci­dents took place over a long pe­riod of time, mean­ing he (Rex) had plenty of time to re­alise his ac­tions were wrong, but he con­tin­ued.

“The mul­ti­ple in­ci­dents and num­ber of com­plainants would def­i­nitely be ag­gra­vat­ing,” said Tu­son.

Be­cause of this, it would be dif­fi­cult to pre­dict the to­tal length of sen­tence that Rex cur­rently faces.

The trial con­tin­ues on Mon­day.

PIC­TURE: ITUMELENG ENGLISH/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

Former Park­town Boys High coach Col­lan Rex leaves the Palm Ridge mag­is­trate’s court. He faces over 300 charges of rape, sex­ual as­sault and at­tempted mur­der.

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