"Reitz Four" granted leave to appeal

31 August 2010 - 18:17 By Sapa

RC Malherbe, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe and Danie Grobler were in July sentenced to a R20, 000 fine each, or 12 months in jail after pleading guilty to a charge of crimen injuria.

Bloemfontein Chief Magistrate Mziwonke Hinxa sentenced the four young men to a further six months imprisonment wholly suspended for five years on certain conditions.

These conditions include any conviction of crimen injuria or a verdict in relation to unfair discrimination against anybody.

The charges relate to them humiliating five black workers in an initiation-type ceremony in 2007, which they filmed while living at the university’s now-closed Reitz men’s residence.

On Tuesday, the former student’s defence counsel Kemp J Kemp told Hinxa the appeal was against the whole sentence because there was a reasonable chance that another court would come to different decision.

Kemp submitted that the sentence for a crimen injuria offence was also not “in line” with similar type sentences given in the past.

He submitted that the facts on which the crime was “set out” was not racially intended.

“They did something that was wrong to human beings. Not what they are racially.” Kemp submitted that referrals in the sentence to news articles as a reflection of the community’s feelings on the matter were wrong.

He said the newspapers articles portrait the students as sadists without their side of the story being heard.

“At least they had an opportunity to put their side of the story (in court),” said Kemp, adding it did not happen in news stories.

He said any right thinking person would want to hear all sides first.

Kemp argued that in terms of the suspended sentence another court might come to another decision in regard to the conditions set.

The State opposed the appeal application.

State prosecutor Johan Kruger argued that although case law did not support a sentence as given, each case must be decided on its own merits.

He said considering the seriousness of the offence and the fact that the court was within its rights, the State do not think the sentence was inappropriate.

“The court’s sentence of R20, 000 or 12 months imprisonment was not a misdirection. We will always oppose it, in any court.”

Kruger submitted any court could take public opinion or feeling into cognisance for sentencing.

“There was a public outcry.” In regard to the appeal against the suspended sentence, Kruger said the State would abide by the court’s decision.

Hinxa granted the leave to appeal application.

This means that the sentences of the students were suspended until the outcome of the appeal.

Lawyer for the Reitz Four, Christo Dippenaar, indicated that papers would be filled at the Bloemfontein High Court as soon as possible.

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