The affordable education loan option
Johannesburg - The sentences meted out to Adriaan Netto and his girlfriend on Wednesday after the death of their 10-month old baby have been welcomed as a victory in the fight against child abuse.
“We are satisfied with the sentencing. The judge and prosecution team did well from the beginning up until the end,” said Women and Men Against Child Abuse spokeswoman Tania Otto.
Judge Majeke Mabesele sentenced Netto, 37, and his girlfriend, 34, to four years each for culpable homicide, three for child abuse, and 15 for rape. The sentences for culpable homicide and rape would run concurrently.
They were sentenced in the Johannesburg High Court sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court, Alberton.
In September, Mabesele found the couple guilty of culpable homicide, child abuse, and the rape of their baby girl.
Before sentencing the couple on Wednesday, the judge said he had a duty to send out a clear message to communities and parents that violation of children's rights would not be tolerated.
The couple sat in the dock with their heads bowed as the sentences were read out.
Mabesele said they had shown no remorse for the child's death.
“It is evident she died a painful and undignified death at the hands of her parents. With the seriousness in nature of the crime, society will look to the courts to dish out harsh sentences. I'm mindful that reasoning should be above emotions to avoid sentencing in anger,” he said.
Mabesele said the couple had faced life sentences but he had taken into account their personal circumstances.
Although the court had a duty to impose the harshest sentence, he had to consider their two other children.
Otto said: “I don't agree with the argument raised by the State on the other children being well taken care of. These children should be raised and guided through life by their parents.”
She would have liked to ask the couple what they would tell their children about their whereabouts for all the years they were going to spend in prison.
“I would also like to know why it was only the girl who was abused,” Otto said.
Bettie Lubbe, the woman who took care of the child until she was three-months-old, also wished for harsher sentences. She said she was relieved that the case had ended.
Speaking about the child, she described her as “sweet”.
“She was a wonderful and sweet baby who slept throughout the night. I cried after being told she was dead. I'm a little bit relieved but it's still painful,” she said.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokeswoman Phindie Louw said she was satisfied with the sentence given the problems encountered during the trial.
“I have to commend the prosecution team because we were faced with a predicament where both parents did not want to take responsibility,” she said.
She said that as a law enforcement agency, the NPA would go beyond the call of duty to protect vulnerable groups.
The woman's uncle, who, like her, cannot be named to protect the identities of the other children, said he was not surprised by the sentence.
Netto's lawyer William Karam also welcomed the sentence, as his client had faced life imprisonment.
“The fact that it was not imposed is a good thing.”
However, Karam said he would have preferred the sentences to run concurrently.
In handing down judgment on September 18, Mabesele found that while the couple had not murdered the child, as charged, their neglect and abuse made them culpable for the baby's death in March last year.
“(I) conclude that the deceased sustained bodily injuries while under the care of her parents,” the judge said.
“They had a legal duty to look after her... Being 10-months-old, the deceased was unable to injure herself.”
Mabesele said the baby's injuries, including broken ribs, anal damage caused by penetration, plus vaginal and liver damage, had been inflicted on the child.
Testimony by Netto and the woman that they did not know how the baby was injured was not true.
“(The) injuries suggest long-standing child abuse,” Mabesele said.