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Cape Town - An enraged father who threw his toddler son to the floor three times for soiling his nappy was jailed for in effect 25 years on Thursday for murder and for assaulting the boy’s mother.
Western Cape High Court Judge Robert Henney could not find the words to adequately express the court’s revulsion at 25-year-old John Hendricks' attack on his two-year-old son, and on the boy’s mother, who lived with him as his common-law wife.
Henney said Hendricks was unemployed at the time of the murder in March 2011, and had abused alcohol and drugs.
He said that when the child convulsed after the attack, Hendricks and the boy’s mother Roxanne Groepies should have realised he needed urgent medical attention.
However, they left him to sleep for the night, and took him to the Red Cross Children’s Memorial Hospital only the next day, after he had convulsed again.
They falsely told hospital staff that the boy had fallen from a high bed.
The murder qualified Hendricks for a minimum sentence of 15 years, but Hendricks opted for a trial by plea bargain in which defence counsel Ken Klopper and State advocate Nadia Ajam agreed that the brutality of the murder justified an increased sentence of 18 years.
However, Henney ruled that even a sentence of 18 years was too lenient, that it did not reflect the best interests of a child, and it lacked the element of deterrence.
He increased it to 22 years, with an additional three years for the assault, nine months later, on the boy’s mother.
Klopper told the court Hendricks was willing to accept any sentence the court imposed.
Henney said Hendricks’ inclination to violence against defenceless people was disturbing, but that his willingness to accept any sentence imposed was an indication that he could benefit from rehabilitation.
About the fatal attack on the boy, the judge said: “As if throwing the boy to the ground once was not bad enough, Hendricks did it a second and a third time.”
He said the Constitution regarded the well-being and best interests of children as being of paramount importance.
For this reason, the courts would at all times ensure that the bests interests of children were observed.