South Africa 22.6.2016 11:20 pm

Why judge gave Hewitt bail

 Former tennis champion Bob Hewitt in the dock of the North Gauteng High Court on 18 May 2015, the day of his sentencing. He has been sentenced to effectively 6 years imprisonment after he was found guilty in March on two counts of rape and one of sexual assault. Picture: Christine Vermooten

Former tennis champion Bob Hewitt in the dock of the North Gauteng High Court on 18 May 2015, the day of his sentencing. He has been sentenced to effectively 6 years imprisonment after he was found guilty in March on two counts of rape and one of sexual assault. Picture: Christine Vermooten

In a letter from the disgraced former tennis star to a child rape victim republished here, Hewitt writes that ‘this letter does not self-destruct so please do it yourself now’. He is accusing his victims of ‘colluding’ against him.

Given the evidence placed before him by convicted child rapist Bob Hewitt’s advocate Stephanie Green, Judge Brian Spilg believed it was in the interests of justice that Hewitt be granted bail until such time as the Constitutional Court finalised the matter, Spilg said on Wednesday in revealing why he granted Hewitt bail on Monday.

“The issue the accused wishes to raise is that there is new evidence which materially affects the outcome of the case. Reliance was placed on a series of emails between the victims or complainants in the rape charges in count 1 and 2 upon which the accused was convicted,” Spilg said.

With only the Supreme Court of Appeal judgment on Hewitt’s failed appeal and the limited emails between two of Hewitt’s rape survivors placed in the public domain by the SABC before him, Spilg said he had very little go on.

Hewitt, currently on R10 000 bail, is accusing the rape survivors of colluding to convict him.

Hewitt was convicted of rape and sexual assault in March 2015, and sentenced on 18 May 2015, after which he immediately applied for leave to appeal his sentence and conviction.

Trial Judge Bert Bam granted Hewitt leave to appeal his sentence only, which the Supreme Court subsequently denied in April.

Oddly, Hewitt’s application to the SCA never included the e-mails that have been in the public domain and in the SABC’s hands since May last year.

The last-gasp chance to appeal to the Constitutional Court by 1 July granted by Spilg means all Hewitt’s eggs are in one basket, and The Citizen understands the petition will be vigorously opposed by the State.

A complainant stated to The Citizen yesterday she was put under massive pressure by the SABC into commenting on the e-mails being released, without being made aware the private correspondence was going to be the subject of a prerecorded interview.

“Therefore I would advise that you hear what’s being alleged before deciding to say no comment. The information that will be revealed tomorrow might have devastating consequences. So please reconsider speaking to me. I’m just doing my job …,” reads the Facebook message between the rape survivor and a SABC producer.

“It has also become apparent that she has given those e-mails to my brother who has taken the liberty of publishing them with their contents and our e-mails addresses on to the internet. In those e-mails is the disclosure of the third victim (whom the court ordered was not to be named) full name and contact details, which she has not only now made public but she herself printed her name in an article,” said the survivor.

Hewitt-letter

One of Hewitt’s ‘love letters’

Women and Men against Child Abuse (WMACA) said Hewitt’s defence had all the information it needed.

“All the victims were cross-examined around the issue of collaboration and questioned by Judge Bam in the court. The victims quite rightly denied any collusion and they were believed by the court,” WMACA said in a statement.

“The contact between the women was made long before the case went to court; sharing their experiences, and the long-term effects of their childhood trauma. This is also not unusual,” the organisation continued.

“Nowhere did anyone strategise or “collude” to get a conviction – it wasn’t necessary. The case was strong enough and Hewitt’s letters to [a rape survivor] were in evidence.”

Part of the hurdle Hewitt will have to overcome is his own submission to the SCA.

“The gravamen of the appellant’s submissions in argument before us was that the sentences are startlingly inappropriate,” deputy judge president of the SCA Justice Mandisa Maya wrote in June.

“It was contended that the court a quo overemphasised the seriousness of the offences at the expense of the appellant’s personal circumstances having regard to his advanced age and ill health and that he ‘only vaginally penetrated the [rape] complainants once’ and has not repeated the offences,” said Maya.

“But his counsel grudgingly conceded that a non-custodial sentence – which was initially sought on the basis that the shame and stigma of a rape conviction and being stripped of his sports honours was sufficient punishment for someone of the appellant’s stature as an international sports star – would be inappropriate,” Maya said, and noted that a sentence of correctional supervision was proposed.

Maya found the SCA had no jurisdiction to interfere and dismissed the appeal.

 

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