Frankel victims speak after landmark judgment

20 June 2017 - 16:07 By Claire Keeton
Lady Justice. File photo.
Lady Justice. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

Paul Diamond‚ one of the “Frankel eight” who won a legal victory for the survivors of sexual assault on Monday‚ said on Tuesday: “We are very humbled and grateful about this far-reaching judgment. It is a major victory for everyone in South Africa.”

Judge Claire Hartford ruled that children and adults would be allowed to lay charges of sexual and indecent assault at any time after they were abused — overturning the 20-year prescription which the applicants had challenged.

Diamond said that allowing the survivors to lay criminal charges of sexual violations would give those without money or power a voice to stand up to their abusers.

He was one of eight men and women who alleged that deceased billionaire Sidney Frankel had sexually assaulted and abused them as children. They wanted to lay criminal charges against Frankel but were limited by the prescription.

Their lawyer Ian Levitt said their success in overturning the 20-year limit “would forever change the prosecution of sexual offenders in South Africa”.

Diamond said that Levitt had been a giant and galvanised support for the case‚ with a strong legal team including Advocate Anton Katz and organisations like Women and Men against Child Abuse‚ taking them to victory.

“We would not have had the money to get to court without some resources. We have had hundreds of calls and huge public support‚” he said.

Diamond said each of the eight applicants had undergone significant life changes since they took the decision to launch a civil case against Frankel in June 2015. “I recently got married. One of us has had a child. Another one has gone through a divorce. The metamorphoses have been unbelievable‚” he said.

His sister‚ Nicole Levenstein‚ said: “We have always said our charges were about changing the law. (This is) a victory for future generations and we can take the good from the bad.”

She said she had been devastated to hear about Frankel’s death. “I was looking forward to the day I came face to face with him in court.”

In August 2015 the applicants laid criminal charges — expecting that the case would have to be fought all the way to the Constitutional Court to overturn the 20-year limit on sexual offences except for rape. The Constitutional Court must still confirm Hartford’s ruling for it to take effect.

The civil case against Frankel’s estate will continue. He denied the allegations of abuse.

The director of Women and Men against Child Abuse‚ Miranda Jordan-Friedmann‚ said that the long term ramifications of child abuse were the same (as rape) over time and it was right that the law should focus on the outcome not the act.

“There is no clinical empirical evidence that sexual assault is any different to rape‚” she said ahead of the judge’s decision.

She said that it was particularly difficult for children to come forward‚ which is why there was low reporting and late disclosure of sexual assault on children.