Bail decision tomorrow for ‘sex slave’ Verulam stepfather

He allegedly used his stepdaughter as a sex slave since the child was five years old. The child, who is now 10, is in a place of safety.

The Verulam Family Court today postponed the bail application of a man accused of raping his stepdaughter more than 900 times over a period of five years.

The 43-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, will hear if he is to be granted bail tomorrow (Friday).

He allegedly used his stepdaughter as a sex slave since the child was five years old. The child, who is now 10, is in a place of safety.

Because he is facing a schedule six offence, the onus was on the man’s lawyer to prove “exceptional circumstances” as to why he should be released on bail.

Lawyer Mondli Mthethwa, for the man, told the court that the man had to enjoy the presumption of innocence before he was tried. And while his client had previous convictions for assault, he had paid fines in compliance with court orders, said Mthethwa.

On Tuesday, the court heard that the complainants in the unrelated assault cases were the man’s parents. The man had initially omitted the assault convictions in his original affidavit, saying he did not understand what was meant when asked to state any previous convictions.

The accused had also not breached an unrelated protection order, Mthethwa told Magistrate Irfan Khalil. A former girlfriend had sought the protection order, the court had also learned on Tuesday.

Besides rape, the man is also being charged with sexual grooming, exposure of a child to pornography and sexual assault. He is alleged to have moved to Verulam – about 30km inland of Durban – from Johannesburg six months ago with the child, where she was last schooled. The girl’s biological mother and father are both dead.

The case was brought to the police’s attention when the girl was beaten and chased out of the room she was sharing with her stepfather. She approached a neighbour and relayed the alleged abuse she had suffered.

Mthethwa said the State had argued that his client may interfere with witnesses, but had not said that this was a certainty. He said that any claims of witness intimidation were made via the investigating officer and did not come from an actual witness.

Because the only witness to the alleged offences was the child, there would be no one to corroborate her claims, said Mthethwa. He said the State had failed to provide any evidence showing the child had been raped.

Although public opinion had to be taken into account, the public did not have an understanding of the law, said Mthethwa.

He also asked that the court disregard images displayed by the State that showed a weapon posted on his client’s Facebook page.

There were also photos posted to the social media platform showing him eating with the child, which the State had not shown, said Mthethwa. The posts should not be used to make inferences about the accused’s character, he said.

He also asked the court to disregard a petition that the State handed to the court that was allegedly signed by community members, calling for the man to be denied bail.

State prosecutor, advocate San Bhartu, said the applicant had lied in his previous affidavit about having assault convictions and had threatened the child’s family members when they had tried to take custody of her.

The man was also a flight risk, she said, as he had no fixed assets, family ties in the area or positive identification.

If he was released on bail, said Bhartu, it might create “public disorder”. The safety of the accused also had to be considered, she said.

African News Agency (ANA)

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