A man who raped his teenage granddaughter was given a lifeline by the North Gauteng High Court which overturned his life imprisonment sentence and replaced it with 15 years in jail.
The 58-year-old man, who cannot be identified to protect his 14-year-old granddaughter, appealed against his rape conviction, as well as against four convictions of assault.
His family members testified against him relating to the assault charges and explained how he had hit them with a sjambok when they dozed off during family prayers in the evenings. A bloodstained T-shirt was handed in as evidence.
The grandfather, however, denied this. He also denied raping the teenager and claimed she had lied to the court.
The child said he raped her during December 2008 and February 2009 and she reported this to her grandmother. A doctor had confirmed that she was raped.
Judge Hans Fabricius confirmed the rape and assault convictions, but said the sentencing on the rape charge was too harsh.
He said if the man was imprisoned for 25 years before being considered for parole, he would be 81 at the time of his release (as he was 56 when he raped the girl). “One can justifiably question whether incarceration between the years (by way of example) 75 and 81 would serve any useful or practical purpose other than mere retribution,” he said.
He agreed with the State that rape was a very serious charge, but said in light of the man’s age, a life sentence was disproportionate.
“I agree the offence is prevalent in this country and that the statistics in this context are shocking. I also agree that young girls are especially vulnerable members of our society and need to be protected. (But) I must keep in mind the purpose of punishment.” He concluded that an injustice would be done by imposing a life sentence in this case, and reduced it to 15 years.