Durban - A KWAZULU-Natal teenager who allegedly raped and gouged out the eye of his eight-year-old victim has been declared mentally unfit to stand trial and admitted to a mental institution.
This came as a shock to the family of the Gingindlovu girl, and sparked outrage among some activists who felt the 15-year-old should have stood trial.
The girl was raped in April, allegedly by a fellow pupil. He allegedly dragged her to a sugar cane field behind her grandmother’s house, raped her and gouged out an eye.
National Prosecuting Authority KwaZulu-Natal spokeswoman Natasha Ramkisson confirmed yesterday that Magistrate T Ngesi in the Esikhawini Magistrates Court had declared the accused mentally unfit to stand trial.
“It was then ordered that he be admitted to a mental institution. The reports from three psychologists also concurred that he was mentally unsound,” she said.
Childline’s KZN director, Linda Naidoo, decried the move, saying the rape of children – by children – was happening too frequently, and sending the alleged rapists to mental institutions was not the answer.
“If this is the case, I would like to know what the government is doing to help these children who commit such crimes. Sending a person to a mental institution does not help the situation because they are not rehabilitated.
“We had a programme (to help children who commit crimes) for 16 years, but had to stop it because government was not funding us.
“I am so angry. I am disgusted by this,” she said of the court’s decision.
“This shows that there is no concern for our children. Can anyone begin to imagine how that little girl suffered? Her pain. Today she has no eye, she is emotionally and psychologically scarred and he is sent to a mental institution.”
Naidoo said the crime was “calculated and well planned”.
“If he was unstable, he would not have (allegedly) dragged her out of sight, raped her and tried to kill her,” she said. “He knew what he was doing and even tried to hide evidence.”
The victim’s aunt, who is not named to protect the child, said yesterday that she was upset by the decision.
“We heard something last week, but thought it was just a rumour. But now that it has been confirmed, I am actually numb. How do I even tell our grandmother, who is in hospital because of stress, about this?”
She did not know how to tell her niece that the person believed to have hurt her would not go to jail.
“Believing that he would be punished kept her going. Now I really have no idea what I will say to her, but it will crush her. She has been let down by the justice system. Why did the police not inform us? It hurts because it is the first time that we hear that he is mentally unstable.”
KZN crime and violence monitor Mary de Haas said the police could have done more.
“First, it was very wrong for the family not to be informed... and counselled. This is wrong, especially for the victim.”
De Haas said justice officials should reveal what steps were taken to declare the boy unstable, because that was the kind of information people deserved to know. “Mental illness can be faked. It was a really terrible crime. He should have stood trial.”
Naidoo agreed that the family had a right to know everything about the case.
“These are human feelings we are dealing with.”
The girl has received a prosthetic eye after a group of Durban doctors bought it for her and had it fitted.
She is now at a boarding school so she no longer has to walk home, another initiative by members of the public.