Johannesburg - Oscar Pistorius’s former advocate Barry Roux has become the newest member of the team of lawyers attempting to fight the early release of convicted paedophile Bob Hewitt.
In early October, the Saturday Star reported how Hewitt, a former South African doubles tennis champion, was in the process of applying to have his prison sentence converted to house arrest. At the time, the Department of Correctional Services said it would make a decision whether to escalate the request to be argued in court by early November.
In a landmark judgment on historical abuse, Hewitt was found guilty on two counts of rape and one of sexual assault in March 2015, for abusing three women while he was their tennis coach in the 1980s and 1990s, when they were teenagers and pre-teens. The following year he was sentenced to six years in prison.
For the past six weeks, each of his victims has been asked to assist in compiling statements against his newest application, with each calling on the department to ensure the 78-year-old stays behind bars for his full sentence.
Several anti-abuse organisations - including Women and Men Against Child Abuse, who monitored Hewitt’s criminal trial, The Teddy Bear Foundation (TTBF), the Child Justice Advocacy Forum and the Reeva Steenkamp Foundation - all condemn the application.
Peter van Niekerk, the Eversheds Sutherland attorney and director at TTBF, who is the lawyer representing each the victims, told the Saturday Star this week that Roux had joined the team and co-signed the representations made on behalf of the victims to the department.
While Van Niekerk did not wish to disclose what Hewitt was likely to argue in his bid to be released to his Eastern Cape home, it’s understood he will rely on the fact that he is at an advanced age and has been well-behaved during his incarceration.
Meanwhile, in their representations, it’s likely the three survivors will rely on a series of arguments, from Hewitt’s initial conviction and sentence being confirmed by the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court, that on the impact his early release could have on their mental state.
The seriousness of his crimes and the fact that he has served less than half his sentence is likely to be a core argument against his sentence conversion. According to Van Niekerk, in terms of case law, CV versus The Minister of Correctional Services will be an essential part of the team’s argument.
The case is similar in that it also involved an offender convicted of indecently assaulting minors. The department’s parole board said at the time the criminal should serve his full sentence because of “the seriousness of the crime, the number of victims involved, and the negative impact this had on the community. Many lives were affected; especially the minors whose future was adversely scarred by the experience the offender put them through.”
While the Saturday Star has not seen the full statements in opposition of the application, each of the complainants provided comment last month about their vehement opposition to his release.
“He took away my life,” said the first complainant. “Speaking out against him lost me my family, my life. I was starting to get better and now I’ve been set back to the point when the trial began. By making this application, he is laughing at the system.”
The second complainant, who has moved overseas, said: “There should be no circumstances that allow him out; old or sick does not cut it. There is a hospital there and, as far as age goes, when he raped me he did not worry about my age so why should anybody consider his age.
He avoided justice for years. We are living in a world where too many children and women are being abused and raped. What kind of message is the law sending if he only has to serve two years and then is allowed to go home, live in the lap of luxury and sit on his patio drinking sundowners with his wife? He needs to stay in jail for his full six years, no parole and no special circumstances."
The third complainant said: “People who are convicted of child abuse should not be granted any leniency or be eligible for parole. They need to serve their full sentence regardless of how old, sick or famous they are.
“We were all helpless young children that an adult took advantage of in the worst possible way. We, with the justice system, need to stand up and be the voice for the children that cannot heard, for the hundreds that every day in our country are being abused, raped and killed. Enough is enough.”