Rob Packham was sentenced to 22 years in prison yesterday for the murder of his wife Gill. David Ritchie African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - The sentencing of wife killer Rob Packham to 22 years in prison is the latest in a string of femicide cases, and activists are saying it won’t be the last.

Child Rights activist and former national co-ordinator of Childline South Africa Joan van Niekerk said she didn’t think sentences handed down by courts in cases where women had been brutally killed by their intimate partners were a deterrent.

Van Niekerk also chaired the SA Law Reform Commission Project Committee on Sexual Offences and participated in consultations that resulted in the initial drafts of the Children’s Act, 38 of 2005 and the Child Justice Act, 75 of 2008.

In passing sentence, Western Cape High Court Judge Elize Steyn said: “The murder was callous, brutal and shocking. He did not show remorse and not once did he mention that he misses his wife or felt sympathy for his children.”

Packham was convicted last month of killing his wife in February 2018. Her body was found in the boot of her burning car at Diep River railway station.

On Thursday, he was sentenced to 20 years for the murder and four years for defeating the ends of justice by attempting to cover it up.

Two of the four years will run concurrently, meaning he will effectively spend 22 years behind bars.

It was an emotional moment for Packham as he was handcuffed and whisked away by police.

Commenting on the sentence and the fact that the judge did not impose a life sentence, Van Niekerk said: “The court might have found that it might not have been premeditated.

“But to burn a body... that certainly took some thought, and this certainly is of great concern.

“To mutilate this body in this way, shows complete lack of respect.

“I don’t think that sentences handed down by courts in cases where women are brutally killed by their intimate partners are a deterrent.

“I believe there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way men and women are socialising, and especially raising our male kids.

“Children need to be raised in a violence-free environment, otherwise they will see this violence as a way to solve problems. We need to teach our kids conflict resolution.”

Roegshanda Pascoe of the Western Cape Safety Forum also bemoaned the fact that Packham escaped a life sentence, saying she was disappointed and felt the courts had once again failed women.

“Women look to (the) courts for protection and expect that the justice system would deal harshly with those raping and murdering their partners.

“A lot needs to be done if we as women want to stop the blows and the abuse.

“It all starts at home, where boys need to be taught there is nothing wrong with them doing the dishes, washing the floors or shedding a tear when they feel hurt or ashamed.

“Our boys grow up with the idea that men don’t cry and witness how their fathers beat up their mothers.

“They then continue this vicious cycle by also beating up their spouses.

“We as communities and parents need to stop these brutal attacks on women and break this stigma that women are inferior.”

Meanwhile, provincial National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said: “As the NPA, we are satisfied with the sentence, as it is a balance between the horrific crime that was committed and the rights of the victim of the crime.

“For that reason, we believe that justice has been done and that this sentence will (impact) on the rising level of femicide in this province.

“We have also spoken to the families - the two sisters of the deceased - and they are happy with the sentence that was handed down.

“In fact, they were happy that he was convicted.”

Police spokesperson FC van Wyk added that the sentence was welcomed by the Western Cape police and it was believed it would serve as a deterrent to violence perpetrated against women.

Van Wyk reiterated that this was a top priority for the police in the province.


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Cape Argus