Organisations to challenge sentencing practices: Bongani Vilakazi appeal
Tuesday 29 April, 2008
On 5 May the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) will consider Bongani Vilakazi’s appeal against his mandatory sentence of life imprisonment for raping a cognitively impaired 13 year-old girl. According to the amicus curiae in the matter, Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre and the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), the arguments supporting Vilakazi’s application for a lesser sentence illustrate broader problems in the sentencing of rapists generally. Not only are the courts deviating from the legislated minimum sentences for rape, but they are doing so in a manner that trivialises the harm of rape. Explains CALS gender specialist Shereen Mills , “This case provides aunique opportunity for the SCA to provide guidance around imposing sentences that recognise women’s rights to dignity and equality, as well as the right to be free from all forms of violence.” Read the
Supreme Court of Appeal decision to overturn sentence in rape case yet another example of the “dysfunctional” criminal justice system
Today the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturned Bongani Vilakazi’s sentence of life imprisonment for rape and replaced it with one of fifteen years. On the face of it, the decision is concerned with appropriate sentences for rape. In actual fact it provides yet another illustration of why the Deputy Minister of Justice has described the criminal justice system as “dysfunctional.”
Said Lisa Vetten of the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC), “This case shows why women who experience sexual violence are poorly served by the criminal justice system. All the evidence was not properly gathered and presented in court. This almost led to the conviction being overturned and it certainly resulted in the sentence being reduced. Additionally, we still don’t have comprehensive sentencing guidelines in place and have to rely instead on poorly drafted legislation setting minimum sentences for certain crimes. This legislation has often caused more difficulties than it has solved."
Read the press release