Supreme Court reinstates life sentence for rapist stepfather
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) on Friday reinstated the life sentence imposed on a man who raped his stepdaughter numerous times since 2011, when she was 12.
In 2016, the Ermelo regional court sentenced the man, whose name is being withheld to protect the identity of his victim, to three life sentences after finding him guilty of raping his stepdaughter during November 2011, August 2012 and February 2015. The regional court ordered the sentences to run concurrently.
The man appealed against both conviction and sentence in the Pretoria high court.
While the high court dismissed his appeal against conviction in June 2018, it set aside the three life sentences and replaced them with three sentences of 20 years’ imprisonment to run concurrently.
The regional court had imposed the sentences of life imprisonment after finding no substantial and compelling circumstances were present that could warrant a deviation from the prescribed minimum sentences of life, as prescribed by the Criminal Law Amendment Act.
However, the high court concluded the sentences of life imprisonment were disproportionate to the offences of rape for which the man was convicted.
“Abhorrent as the appellant’s crimes may be, society has given us worse examples of the extent or brutality of crimes against women.
“To impose life sentences in the present instance would be disproportionate to the imposition of life sentences in such other matters which would deserve the ultimate penalty,” the high court said in its judgment by judge Norman Davis, and agreed to by acting judge Desmond Nair in 2016.
Aggrieved by this, the state appealed to the SCA against the reduced sentences.
The SCA on Friday said the repeated rapes not only caused the girl to lose her virginity, she also fell pregnant several times.
It said her rapist influenced the girl to tell her mother she was impregnated by her boyfriend on each occasion.
When the complainant’s mother wanted to approach the boy’s parents, the man convinced her not to, saying it was unnecessary, as boys always deny impregnating girls. The multiple pregnancies were terminated with the use of pills the man had bought.
In its judgment reinstating the original life sentence, the SCA said sight should not be lost of the fact that society views the man’s heinous conduct in a serious light.
The SCA said the sentences imposed by the high court were woefully inadequate when viewed within the context of the circumstances of this case.
The appellate court said in finding the crimes the man was convicted of were not the worst kind of rapes, the high court clearly underplayed the circumstances in this matter.
“If one has regard to the circumstances as to how the rapes were committed, including the consequences that flowed from them, there is no doubt they are horrendous enough to justify the imposition of the maximum penalty,” acting judge of appeal Anna Kgoele said in a unanimous judgment of the full bench.
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