South Africa: Court Dismisses Man's Appeal of Life Sentence for Raping Daughter Over 7 Years

13 November 2019

The Western Cape High Court has dismissed a West Coast man's appeal of his life sentence for raping his daughter countless times over a period of seven years.

The man pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and was convicted in the Vredenburg Regional Court in February 2017. The two counts were taken as one for sentencing and life imprisonment was imposed two months later.

His biological daughter had moved back and forth between her parents for some years before she went to live with him in 2008 at the age of 10.

On his own admission, he perpetrated countless acts of rape by compelling her to perform oral sex on him for years after that.

The first rape count related to the period when she was under 16 years of age, and the second to the period thereafter.

Western Cape High Court Judge Judith Cloete recently dealt with his appeal on the basis that the trial judge had erred in not considering several circumstances.

His submissions were that the rapes were not accompanied by violence or threats of violence; that oral rape "is not the most severe form of rape"; and that his personal circumstances were otherwise favourable.

It was also submitted on his behalf that the sentence was disproportionate because he was capable of being rehabilitated, he was a so-called first offender for rape, he pleaded guilty and showed remorse, the victim appeared to have forgiven him, and she did not seem to have lasting and debilitating effects from the crimes.

"In my view, none of the grounds relied upon have any merit," Judge Cloete found in her appeal judgment.

She said rapes were themselves "acts of violence of the most degrading kind" and there was nothing in the record to indicate that they were not accompanied by violence or threats at any stage.

"In any event, violence or threats only constitute types of abuse. Equally insidious and devastating to the victim are intentional grooming and emotional and psychological abuse.

"Simply because these do not manifest themselves in the form of physical injury, does not necessarily mean that they are less severe or reprehensible."

Judge Cloete believed the trial magistrate could not be faulted for finding no substantial and compelling circumstances existed.

"Indeed, not even the appellant's legal representative suggested during the trial that any existed."

'Entirely unpersuaded'

His legal representative submitted he had found religion since being in prison, but the appeal court found no other indication that he was capable of rehabilitation.

"This is an individual who had no compunction in repeatedly raping his vulnerable daughter over an extended period of seven years, apparently without detection."

While technically a first offender, he did not commit a single act of rape and there was no compelling evidence of true remorse.

The court had access to the evidence of a social worker who compiled the victim impact report as well as the victim's own impact statement.

"These established that the victim experienced fear, heartache, confusion and shame throughout most of her formative years. She has embraced religion in an attempt to deal with her feelings of shame and self-blame which are so severe that they are exacerbated merely by her encountering anything associated with the appellant's former employment," said Judge Cloete.

The daughter blamed herself for the fact that he had lost his job and home.

"The psychological scarring of the victim is furthermore evidenced by the facts that she does not seem to blame him for having lost her home as well; has never experienced a healthy father-daughter relationship; was robbed of her innocence and childhood; and fears a repetition of what she endured in any future relationship."

The appeal court believed these were strong indications of permanent scarring that the victim would have to carry with her for a lifetime.

"It is her life sentence. In these circumstances I am entirely unpersuaded that the sentence imposed was disproportionate," said Judge Cloete.

Acting Judge Daniel Thulare agreed with her findings and the appeal was dismissed.


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