South Africa 22.8.2013 06:00 am

Advocates defend Barbie’s release

8 February 2010. Cezanne Visser, known as

8 February 2010. Cezanne Visser, known as "Advocate Barbie", leaves the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria of the first day of sentencing got underway. Picture: Sabrina Dean.

Amid calls for more severe sentences for child molesters and outrage about Cezanne Visser’s release on parole earlier this week, several advocates have supported the decision to release her.

Advocate Johan Engelbrecht SC, who defended Visser in the High Court in Pretoria where she was sentenced to seven years imprisonment in 2009, said Visser had paid her debt for the crimes she committed and should be given a chance to get on with her life.

Visser, better known as “Advocate Barbie”, was released on parole after serving three years and three months of her “seven-year sentence on 11 charges including fraud, soliciting a girl to commit indecent acts, indecently assaulting girls and the manufacture and possession of child pornography.

Advocate Megan Mybergh, who did in-depth research on Aids and the law, agreed and said Visser had paid her dues and deserved a chance to start a new life.

Dr Llewelyn Curlewis, a practicing advocate and part-time lecturer at the University of Pretoria, said it was easy to say Visser had “messed with children” and should be put away for life, but one had to look at the specific charges against her.

“Every case where children are involved is very serious, but one should look at the charges of which she had been convicted,” he said. He agreed with Engelbrecht that Visser had not been convicted of the most serious offenses against children, such as rape, and could not be punished for something she did not do.

He said the public was uninformed and saw anything that happened to a child as rape and immorality, but that’s not what Visser had been charged with. The State, which constantly dealt with such cases, could have appealed if it did not regard Visser’s sentence as appropriate, but never did so.

Visser’s case went all the way to the Constitutional Court, but the learned judges also did not interfere with her sentence, showing that they were of the opinion that she had been adequately punished for what she did, he said.

Engelbrecht said he regarded the Parole Board’s decision as legally correct. One should remember that children were not seriously molested or raped. None of them had to receive medical treatment and Visser’s former boyfriend Dirk Prinsloo also never raped any of them, he said.

 

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