Sex offence charges against coach withdrawn
Charges of paedophilia against a Durban coach, jailed in December for having sex with a minor in Germany, have been withdrawn in a Durban court, raising fears that he might try to evade his trial in South Africa.
The father of the teen victim expressed this concern on Wednesday on learning that the local charges – comprising rape and sexual assault of a child, grooming a child for the purposes of sexual assault, as well as possessing and distributing child pornography – had been withdrawn by the Durban Regional Court.
“My daughter is very disappointed that she was forced through this whole process only for him to enter into a plea bargain. She wants him to be tried here,” said the father, who cannot be named to protect her identity, on Wednesday.
“She doesn’t think his sentence in Germany is enough.”
The father and daughter travelled to Darmstadt, Germany, in December to testify against the coach.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed on Wednesday that the charges were withdrawn, because of his conviction and sentence in Germany. But it said the local charges can be reinstituted.
The father said that because the coach has been sentenced to a term of less than three years, he would not be eligible for automatic expulsion from Germany.
“We are concerned that he may try to flee (on the completion of his sentence),” he said.
The coach, who relocated to Germany with his family to train a national cycling team for the Olympics in London, had admitted in the German court to having sex with a 13-year-old, after she gave evidence. The 47-year-old, arrested in Germany in May soon after he was granted bail at the Durban Regional Court, entered into a deal with German prosecutors.
He was sentenced to a term of two years and 11 months, and ordered to pay damages equivalent to R56 400 to the victim’s family.
On Wednesday NPA spokeswoman Natasha Ramkisson said: “The charges (in Durban) were withdrawn because he is serving his sentence in Germany.”
She said that keeping the matter on the court roll would have financial implications as well as “waste court hours”.
The charges could be revived once he had served his time in Germany, Ramkisson said.
However, Professor Managay Reddi, dean of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s School of Law, on Wednesday cautioned that the NPA should stay on top of developments.
“If the NPA does not keep its finger on the pulse of this case, the coach can do whatever he wants once he’s served his sentence. He could flee to a country where there is no extradition agreement and nobody will have a hold on him.”
Reddi stressed that it was crucial for the NPA to be careful not lose track of the case.
Equating this case to that of honeymoon murder accused Shrien Dewani, Reddi said the State could seek extradition without instituting charges.
She said the State would have to write to the German authorities seeking extradition and convince them that they had sufficient grounds to extradite. The State did not have to reinstitute charges until the accused returned to South Africa, she said.
“If the sentence has been completed and no request for extradition has been made, he may very well try to evade justice,” Reddi said.
The coach was arrested in Durban on April 24 after being persuaded to return to South Africa by the victim’s father, under the pretext that he would apologise to the girl and her family and sign a non-disclosure agreement before flying back to Europe.
He was arrested at King Shaka International Airport and held for some days before he was granted bail of R80 000.
He was rearrested soon after his return to Germany and kept in custody until the December trial.