Rapist's life sentence overturned, ruled 'disproportionate to the crime'
A Limpopo man who raped his stepdaughter did not deserve a life sentence because the child had probably allowed the sex in anticipation of gifts, the Supreme Court of Appeal has ruled.
Edson Ndou was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2004 by the Limpopo High Court.
According to the 15-year-old girl's testimony he had previously had sex with her, and had given her sandals, underwear and money.
"The fact that she had accepted gifts and money from the appellant (Ndou) must have played a role in her submitting to the sexual intercourse," Appeal Court Judge Jeremiah Shongwe wrote in his judgment.
Judges Lex Mpati, Carole Lewis, Belinda van Heerden and Nathan Erasmus concurred in reducing Ndou's sentence from life imprisonment to 15 years.
The girl testified she was asleep in a room with her two younger sisters when Ndou entered and raped her.
"She did not scream or cry. She intended to tell her mother, who was asleep in one of the other rooms, in the morning. She also stated that it was not the first time he had done this," the judgment read.
The mother discovered Ndou having sex with the girl and asked him what he was doing.
"He said that he was waking up the children so that they could go and urinate," Shongwe said.
The mother reported the matter to the police the next day. According to the girl, Ndou had threatened to kill her if she reported a previous rape, and had told her not to tell her mother.
"On the occasion which forms the subject of the present rape charge, it would appear that there were no threats of violence by the appellant," Shongwe said.
The complainant had not suffered any serious physical injury, and had submitted to Ndou without any threats being made. She also had not resisted or screamed for help.
No evidence was led as to the effect the rape had had on the girl, but "it would be unrealistic to think there was none".
Although there was sexual abuse and rape were predominant, life imprisonment was the most severe sentence the courts could inflict.
The severity of the punishment did not match the crime, and Ndou was a first offender.
"In my view the circumstances in this case are such that a sentence of life imprisonment is disproportionate to the crime," Shongwe said.
The judgment was delivered last month.