Police at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg were minutes away from cuffing convicted child rapist and disgraced tennis star Bob Hewitt when he managed to obtain a hearing before Judge Brian Spilg.
Hewitt intends appealing to the Constitutional Court to have his sentence of six years imprisonment for the rape of two minors in the 80s and the sexual assault of a third girl in the 90s reduced.
The State is opposing Hewitt’s application for leave to appeal as it believes his application has no reasonable chance of success.
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) recently dismissed Hewitt’s application for leave to appeal, and said it had taken 30 years for the “long arm of the law” to catch up with Hewitt.
According to the SCA, in addition to Hewitt’s advanced age, he is a first offender and a family man married for 50 years.
SCA Judge Mandisa Maya, in dismissing Hewitt’s appeal, wrote: “He has two adult children and several grandchildren. He endured a barrage of anonymous hate mail and hostility from members of the public and the media when he attended the trial.
“He suffers various ailments including osteoarthritis resulting from his many years of sporting activity for which he has had surgery; progressive coronary artery disease for which he receives medication and treatment; peptic ulcer disease and dysfunctional colon for which he is on chronic medication.
“According to his cardiologist (Dr J du Toit), he needs ‘to be watched carefully’. And in the opinion of his gastroenterologist (Dr J Garisch) he ‘requires access to the required expertise in order to have regular check-ups and adjustments made to his medication and treatment [but] there have been no compelling surgical issues to date’.
“A synopsis of his physical health prepared by Dr R Barnard was that ‘he has numerous medical conditions that currently contribute to the fragility of his age’, which ‘are fairly well controlled, as long as he regularly attends the follow-ups booked’ with his doctors,” Judge Maya wrote.
She also said: “I am not satisfied that the sentences imposed by the court a quo are not appropriate and that it exercised its sentencing discretion improperly.
“In my view, the sentences fit the criminal and the crime and fairly balance the competing interests. Although the element of rehabilitation bears little relevance here because of the appellant’s age, the sentences would still serve the other important purposes of sentence, ie deterrence and retribution.
“This court therefore has no right to interfere. The appeal is accordingly dismissed.”
Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) spokesperson Vincentia Dlamini-Ngobese said in a statement yesterday that Hewitt should not be given bail.
“The State has been far too lenient in granting Hewitt bail after he was found guilty of raping minors – he has been out on bail for more than a year while waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court to dismiss his application to appeal his sentence.”
“Last year, May 18, Judge Bam sentenced Hewitt to eight years each for each of the two counts of rape and two years for indecent assault. Two years of each sentence were suspended for two years, provided he paid an amount on each count towards a department of justice programme against the abuse of women and children.”
“In WMACA’s view, the prison sentence handed to Hewitt is unjust to the complainants. The heinous crime of raping a child, no matter when or how it occurred, should consistently carry a life sentence if our society wishes to eradicate the scourge and devastating consequences.”