Convicted rapist and former tennis player and coach Bob Hewitt will be released on parole on September 23, the attorney for one of his victims, Olivia Jasriel, told The Citizen.
According to lawyer Tania Koen, Ewald Bosman from the department of correctional services at St Albans prison in the Eastern Cape informed her that the parole board sat on August 23 and made the decision to release Hewitt later this month.
If Hewitt does indeed get parole, this could be considered questionable timing, coming as it does in the midst of widespread outrage at violence against women and children following the recent murders of victims including Uyinene Mrwetyana, Natasha Conabeer, Jesse Hess, Leighandré Jegels, Janika Mallo, Lynette Volschenk, and Meghan Cremer.
While there was a parole hearing, Koen said her client was not informed. Her interpretation of the Correctional Services Act is that the hearing should not have taken place without the knowledge of the victims.
His release will “send the wrong message to society”, Koen said.
“You can imagine the trauma of the victim, and now she feels she is being raped again by the law. Those are strong words but that’s how she feels,” Koen continued.
It sends the message that the “perpetrator has more rights than the victim,” she added.
Koen plans to take the matter further, taking the decision to the parole review board for reconsideration.
Her understanding of the law is that he would stay in jail in the interim, while the review is being heard.
When called for comment, Bosman said he could not say anything, referring The Citizen to St Albans’ spokesperson Nandipha James, who in turn referred The Citizen to national department of correctional services (DCS) spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo.
Nxumalo said that the proper processes were not adhered to and indicated that the outcome of the parole process was not yet meant to be public knowledge, before sending the following official response, which included confirmation that Hewitt was indeed eligible for parole but appears to deny that a final decision has been made.
“Offender Bob Hewitt is serving his sentence at North End Correctional Centre in the Eastern Cape Region.
“DCS will be guided by the recommendations of correctional supervision and parole board on either to grant or deny Mr Hewitt parole at this stage.
“The offender has indeed served the minimum required time to be considered for parole by the board.
“Once the decision has been made, it will [be] communicated to the parties involved, which includes the offender, victims of crime and their families.”
News24 has since reported that Hewitt will not yet be released on parole, however, the publication’s only source for this information was the statement from Nxumalo already included in The Citizen’s original article.
Reports in October last year that Hewitt would be launching an application for early parole were met with outrage, with Women and Men Against Child Abuse (Wamaca) director Kevin Barbeau saying at the time they would “vehemently” oppose it.
UPDATE: This story was updated with reference to the News24 story reporting that Hewitt will not yet be released.
(Background reporting, Amanda Watson)