Court rules woman must pay for falsely accusing ex-husband of rape
Pretoria - A woman who was apparently under the mistaken belief that her ex-husband had raped and attacked her, while he was in fact at a casino with a girlfriend, is liable to pay damages to him for malicious prosecution and defamation.
The woman, only identified as JC in the judgment, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a psychiatrist who earlier testified. It was said that she had suffered severe abuse from her husband during their marriage and that she even obtained a protection order against him.
She was said to have genuinely believed that her husband, only identified as GC, had attacked and raped her in September 2012.
But the husband had an alibi, as video footage showed that at the exact time of the attack he was at the casino. The husband was nevertheless still arrested and only granted bail after spending seven days in custody. Charges were eventually withdrawn against him a year later.
He initially instituted a claim against his ex-wife in the Western Cape High Court. His claim was turned down, after which he turned to the Supreme Court of Appeal.
While three of the five Supreme Court judges found that the wife was indeed liable for damages, two did not agree with the majority judgment.
The court was told that the couple, while married, lived on a farm in the Ceres district. They got divorced two months before the incident where the wife claimed he had raped and attacked her in the middle of the night in her house.
Hours after the rape incident in September, a friend of the wife received a call that she had to fetch JC at the farm, as something terrible had happened. The friend said she found the woman lying naked in bed. She appeared to be shivering and looked scared. She was reluctant to talk about what had happened to her, but intimated that her ex-husband was responsible.
The house was in disarray and the wife’s clothes were strewn all over. There was a piece of wire tied around the leg of the dining room-table, the chairs had been knocked over and there was broken glass on the floor.
A doctor later confirmed her injuries and the woman told the police her husband had “mad eyes” which “stared at her” while he had attacked her.
When the police arrived at the husband’s house, he claimed that he was innocent, because he was at the casino at the time. Although the SAPS later verified this, he was still arrested and detained.
A forensic psychiatrist told the court during the husband’s damages claim against his ex-wife that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which causes her to develop panic symptoms when traumatic experiences of her marriage are triggered.
The psychiatrist said the wife genuinely believed her husband was the rapist and attacker and due to her psychiatric condition, and that she did not have malicious intent.
The wife claimed that she had “experienced prolonged and severe sexual and emotional abuse” by her husband throughout the marriage, which he denied.
When she was shown the video footage of her husband at the casino at the time of the attack, she said she did not care, as “he was her attacker”.
The wife’s legal team nevertheless tried to call her to testify in her defence, but having spent less than two minutes on the witness stand, she told the judge that she was unable to continue as she could not face her husband.
While the husband’s alibi is not in dispute, the high court turned down his claim due to his wife’s mental condition.
Three Supreme Court judges found the wife liable for damages and said that while the court found her too anxious to testify, it was more plausible that she had no answers for the false charges against him, following their acrimonious divorce.
Two judges, however, found that the wife’s belief that her husband had attacked her, was reasonable under the circumstances.