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Man who raped girlfriend at rave fails to have convictions overturned

27 November 2021 - 15:52
A man convicted of raping his girlfriend at a rave festival has failed to convince the high court to overturn his convictions.
A man convicted of raping his girlfriend at a rave festival has failed to convince the high court to overturn his convictions.
Image: 123RF/ANDRIY POPOV

A man jailed for raping his girlfriend during a rave festival has failed to convince the high court to overturn his convictions.

Taariq Phillip was charged with murder and rape after his girlfriend of three years, Sharisha Chauhan, died after drug-fuelled partying at a rave festival in Paarl, Western Cape, in 2013. Chauhan died 18 hours after the rape.

Phillip was acquitted of murder but was convicted on two counts of rape in 2018. He was handed a 10-year jail sentence and he appealed.

A full bench of the high court in Cape Town heard Phillip’s appeal. Two judges upheld his conviction and sentence while one dissented this month.

The judgment details how Phillip, Chauhan and a group of friends bought and used drugs at the event.

One of the witnesses said Phillip and Chauhan “went to seek out the purchase of these drugs in the vicinity of the dance floor”.  They intended to stay overnight in a small tent at a camping site close to the festival. 

“[Phillip] approached an unknown man with a moon bag and purchased what they ‘assumed’ to be these recreational drugs,” the judgment reads.

“This group again met up at the camp site. The deceased handed a piece of ‘cardboard’ to [the witness], which she assumed was the drug LSD.  This was because it looked like a postage stamp, was perforated, each portion depicted a different picture and one portion had already been removed from this sheet containing a number of portions.

“ [The witness] tore off a piece, placed it on her tongue and gave the remainder back to the deceased.  [The witness] testified that she assumed that the deceased had also consumed this drug.  She never observed this, but mentioned that it was the plan that everyone would partake in the use of these recreational drugs that they had collectively purchased.”

The group of friends “then descended onto the dance floor”. 

“En route, they stopped at the restrooms before reaching the dance floor.  The deceased complained that she felt unwell,” the judgment reads. 

“[Phillip] then handed certain further drugs to the group.  [The witness] consumed this drug with water and assumed everyone else also did so, but she did not specifically observe that everyone else in the group had consumed these drugs.  [The witness] testified that she felt ‘energised’ after having consumed these drugs.” 

The witness told the court she saw Chauhan being taken to a medical tent.

“While she was at this medical tent, she observed the deceased being carried on a stretcher into the medical tent.  She thereafter spoke with [Phillip],” the judgment reads. 

“[Phillip] stated that the deceased wished to have sexual intercourse with him but he refused because she was acting strangely.  He showed her a scratch mark on his stomach. Thereafter, when she spoke to [Phillip] at the hospital, [Phillip] remarked that it appeared that the deceased had been raped. 

“She asked [Phillip] if he had sexual intercourse with the deceased and [Phillip] stated that the last time they had sexual intercourse was prior to Christmas.”

Phillip told a police officer that Chauhan acted weirdly before having convulsions.

“She (the police officer) made contact with [Phillip] and asked him to meet her at the campsite. At the tent the appellant informed her that the deceased had consumed recreational drugs and that the deceased had undressed herself and insisted on having sexual intercourse with him," the judgment reads. 

Chauhan rolled around inside the tent. Phillip called for assistance after she started having convulsions. 

According to the police officer, the tent was neat and tidy inside with no indication that anyone had been rolling around.  

In his appeal, Phillip argued that the court that convicted him “wrongly interpreted the facts, specifically in not finding that it was ‘reasonably possibly true’ that the deceased’s vaginal and anal injuries could have been self-inflicted and not caused as a result of any rape”.

He also argued that the court “wrongly rejected certain expert evidence regarding certain ‘other’ injuries to the deceased’s body and that the evidence pointed away from non-consensual sex and finally that the evidence of one of the state witnesses was not credible and fell to be discarded and rejected outright”.

But judges Robert Henney and Derek Wille were not convinced.  

“We find that what is contended for by [Phillip] amounts to speculation and conjecture.  Put in another way, there are no positive facts underpinning or in favour of the position and stance charted by [Phillip].  We find that [Phillip] had sexual intercourse with the deceased at a time when she was unable to consent thereto,” they ruled.

They upheld Phillip’s convictions and sentence.

Judge Vincent Saldanha, in the dissenting judgment, said “the evidence with regard to whether the deceased was able to consent to sexual intercourse, in the circumstances of this matter, was wholly inadequate to sustain a conviction of the rapes beyond a reasonable doubt”.

He added: “{Phillip] was in my view entitled to the benefit of the doubt that existed on the evidence with regard to what exactly the mental condition of the deceased was when she entered the tent, and whether she was in fact able to have consented to sexual intercourse.” 

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