Former tennis Grand Slam champion and convicted rapist Bob Hewitt abused his position of authority when he raped two young women and sexually assaulted another, the Supreme Court of Appeal said on Thursday.
It dismissed his appeal to have his six-year jail sentence overturned, and said his fame did not earn him special treatment.
“[Hewitt], ironically a father of a young girl himself at the material time, exploited the complainants’ innocence and youth and forced them to submit to his wicked desires. He abused his position of authority and responsibility towards them and also abused the trust that their parents had placed in him when they put their young children in his care,” the SCA said.
The court said it was regrettable that it had taken so long to bring him to justice.
In March last year, Pretoria High Court Judge Bert Bam found the 75-year-old guilty of raping Suellen Sheehan and Theresa “Twiggy” Tolken. Bam sentenced Hewitt to eight years each for the rapes in May. Hewitt had coached the women in the 1980s, when they were teenagers.
Two years of each sentence were suspended for two years, provided he paid an amount on each count towards a department of justice programme to combat the abuse of women and children.
In the 1990s, he coached another teenage girl – who may not be named. He was sentenced to two years for indecently assaulting her.
The sentences would run concurrently.
Hewitt applied for leave to appeal Bam’s conviction. Bam dismissed this, but granted him leave to appeal his sentence.
‘Lasting and devastating effect’
He said Hewitt’s age, his health, and the time that had elapsed since the incidents made the decision to impose a correct sentence very difficult.
However, the SCA said it gave consideration to Hewitt’s personal circumstances particularly his advanced age, ill health and the extraordinary amount of time that had passed since the offences were committed.
Although his poor health was a matter to be considered, the medical treatment and care he required would be available in prison.
The SCA said Hewitt’s crimes had had a “lasting and devastating” effect on the victims and their families.
Sheehan and Tolken, both divorcees, had struggled to maintain intimate relationships with men throughout their adult lives as a direct result of the rapes.
“According to the second complainant [Tolken], her parents and sister never recovered from the incident and it has affected her children too as a result of the manner in which she is raising them. The first complainant has suffered severe depression and anxiety and has led what she termed ‘a self-destructive’ life.
“All three complainants, who were described as promising tennis players in the trial, abandoned their potential tennis careers and told how they cannot bring themselves to even watch tennis to this day because of its link to the offences,” it said.[Source: News24]