General: Magistrate in trouble over lenient child rape sentences

A KZN magistrate heading a Sexual Offences Court has been flagged for giving lenient sentences to men convicted of raping and molesting children, reports TimesLIVE. One of the sentences – in which the accused was given a two-year wholly suspended sentence conditional on his paying compensation of R1 000 to the victim’s mother – has already been set aside by two KZN judges who ordered that he go to jail for five years. According to documents filed in the court in that matter, three other similar matters are headed to the High Court on review. Acting Durban Regional Court President Sello Maboee confirmed he was in possession of the review judgment. ‘I have called for all other cases involving the same colleague for scrutiny and only then will an informed decision be made regarding the way forward,’ he said. All were sentences imposed by veteran Pinetown Regional Court Magistrate Bilkish Asmal, who it is understood has been ‘rotated’ out of the Sexual Offences Court.

The issues raised by some of her sentences initially came from an anonymous source, and Durban Regional Court Magistrate Garth Davis was tasked with obtaining the relevant records and writing a memorandum. This memorandum formed part of the review record which came before Judges Vusi Nkosi and Graham Lopes, notes TimesLIVE. Davis says it had come to the attention of (former) Acting Regional Court President Sharon Marks that Asmal was handing down wholly suspended sentences, coupled with orders that the accused pay a low amount of compensation to the victim or the primary caregiver. KZN DPP Elaine Zungu confirmed that the matters had been taken on review. ‘There was no stage in these cases where the prosecutor requested compensation orders. They were granted at the discretion of the magistrate,’ she said.

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