Johannesburg - Convicted paedophile Bob Hewitt has been refused the opportunity to convert his prison sentence to house arrest, after the Department of Correctional Services parole board confirmed on Friday it had dismissed his application.
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, eliciting outrage from anti-abuse organisations and the three women whom he raped or molested when they were children in the 1980s and 1990s.
In a landmark judgment on historical abuse, Hewitt was found guilty on two counts of rape and one of sexual assault in March 2015, and was sentenced to six years in prison the following year.
Despite not yet being eligible for parole, Hewitt applied to the board for the sentence conversion, with the complainants arguing house arrest would essentially be the same as parole for Hewitt.
For the past seven weeks, each victim 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 - have all condemned the application.
Last week, Oscar Pistorius’s lawyer, Barry Roux, had joined the legal team opposing the application, alongside Peter van Niekerk, Eversheds Sutherland attorney and director at TTBF.
On Friday, Van Niekerk said a department official confirmed the board’s denial. “All of our clients are delighted at the outcome,” he said.
Van Niekerk added that the relevant department’s area commissioner had carefully considered all of the representations, and that the board had, ultimately, decided not to grant the application.
However, it was also confirmed that Hewitt would be eligible to apply for parole in September next year - after serving half of his sentence. One of the complainants spoke to the Saturday Star on Friday afternoon, thanking all of the organisations and lawyers who had assisted in fighting against Hewitt’s attempt to be released.
The woman said that the entire process of fighting the application had been incredibly difficult, and felt almost as traumatising as the criminal trial in which she had to testify.
“I’m hoping that this small victory turns into a big picture victory, and the courts start taking re-traumatisation into account. As far as I’m concerned, his sentence is a drop in the ocean compared to my life sentence (of trauma). I will not stop fighting this, and will oppose his parole next year,” she said.
Another complainant was also elated by the news: “I would like to say a very big thank you to all the amazing people involved in helping us with this case. “Without having these hard-working, wonderful people, I don’t know how we would be able to keep going on. I am very happy that the parole board has denied the application.”