- S V [Bob] Hewitt 2017 (1) SACR 309 (SCA)
This is the much-publicised case of the retired, world-renowned champion tennis player and instructor/coach, Bob Hewitt, who was convicted by the High Court in Pretoria on two counts of rape* and one count of indecent assault*.
The two rape complaints related to girls aged about 12 and 13 years during the early 1980s, when the rapes* were committed. The indecent assault* complainant was a girl who was 17 years old during 1994, when she was indecently assaulted. All three the complainants supra were tennis players who were coached by Hewitt.
After being convicted and sentenced by the Pretoria High Court during March 2015, Hewitt (who was 75 years old at that stage) appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein (“the SCA”) against (only) his sentences.
Appeal before the SCA
Of importance (and interest) to readers of this column are the following points that emerged from the SCA judgment, namely -
(1) The offences concerned were committed quite a number of years (exact numbers and/or dates not specified)* before charges were laid and criminal proceedings instituted.
(2) Complainant 1, at the time, reported her rape to her mother, with whom she had a bad relationship, but the mother dismissed it out of hand whereupon it was the end of the matter.
(3) Complainant 2, at the time, disclosed her rape to her sister and parents whereupon a charge was laid with the police in Johannesburg. The Attorney-General (nowadays the Director of Public Prosecutions [DPP]) ruled that the rape was in fact committed, at the time, in the former Republic of Bophuthatswana (apparently at the Sun City Hotel), whereupon the case was aborted (as far as the South African courts were concerned). The lawyers engaged by complainant 2’s father were also, at the time, concerned that she would never withstand cross-examination by Hewitt’s lawyers, if the matter went on trial*.
(4) As far as complainant 3 (the “indecent assault” charge) is concerned, she reported the molestation to her mother after a number of years. No charge was laid with the police. However, because (again) the lawyer consulted by complainant 3’s family, advised that it would be difficult to prove the offence in court, as there were no witnesses and it would rest solely on her word. Accordingly, this charge was likewise, at the time, aborted*.
(5) As far as sexual offences in general are concerned, see the following remarks made by the SCA in paragraph  of its judgment and where relevant legal authority is quoted to substantiate each of the remarks concerned:
“Our courts have, in countless cases of this nature, consistently expressed society’s abhorrence of sexual offences, which once earned South Africa the shameful title of being the rape capital of the world, and the devastating effect they have on victims and society itself. The courts have aptly described rape as ‘a horrifying crime’ and ‘a cruel and selfish act in which the aggressor treats with utter contempt the dignity and feelings of [the] victim’ and as ‘a very serious offence’ which is ‘a humiliating, degrading and brutal invasion of the privacy, the dignity and the person of the victim’. Rape of a child, usually committed by those who believe they can get away with it and often do, is far more horrendous.