Former tennis star and convicted rapist Bob Hewitt remained stony-faced as the High Court in Pretoria ruled on Friday that he could appeal his effective six year sentence, but not his conviction.
“The application for leave to appeal the conviction is refused,” Judge Bert Bam said.
“Leave to appeal the sentence to the Supreme Court of Appeal is granted.”
Bam said he had found the State’s case against Hewitt overwhelming and that his lawyer Johann Engelbrecht did not convince him that another court would come to a different conclusion.
However, he felt the decision on the sentence was a “difficult task”.
The judge then referred to remarks he had made while the application was being heard, where he admitted that Hewitt’s age, his health and the time that had elapsed since the incidents, made the decision to impose a correct sentence very difficult.
Wife smiles broadly
Bam also extended Hewitt’s bail.
After the ruling was handed down, Hewitt and his wife Delaille spoke to his lawyers. His wife sported a wide smile.
Bam previously sentenced Hewitt to eight years each for the rapes of Suellen Sheehan and Twiggy Tolken.
Two years of each sentence was suspended for two years, provided he pays an amount on each count towards a department of justice programme against the abuse of women and children.
For the indecent assault of a third person, also a teenager at the time, he received two years. The sentences would run concurrently.
Engelbrecht argued earlier that Bam had erred in finding the former tennis star guilty and in imposing a harsh sentence.
“I submit that there is a reasonable possibility that another court would come to the conclusion similar evidence did not support the finding of your lordship,” he said.
Engelbrecht repeatedly pointed out several aspects of the case which he claimed Bam did not deal with.
“I’ve addressed it my judgment,” and “I took that into account,” Bam interjected on those occasions.
Engelbrecht said that another court would find the sentence “startlingly inappropriate”.
He said Hewitt’s “fall of grace” and the “lengthy period of the complainants not reporting the incidents” should have been a mitigating factor in his sentencing, and that there were no serious injuries from “the penetration of the complainants”.
“Physical injuries. But what about psychological injuries?” Bam asked.
“No psychiatric evidence was presented,” Engelbrecht responded.
Engelbrecht argued that Bam did not consider “the aspect of their [the complainants’] mental capacity at the time of the commission of the crime”.
He also argued that the claims made against Hewitt were not probable.
“He is a well-known person, why would he force himself on a girl in a public space in the day where anyone could see?” Engelbrecht asked.
“It is improbable. We should not look at each probability in isolation. When the evidence is looked at in totality, these improbabilities come to the forefront, which destroys the credibility of the complainants.”
Prosecutor Carina Coetzee argued that the court ruled correctly in both the conviction and the sentencing and that both applications be dismissed.
“The court balanced the elements of the sentencing,” she said. News24