Sick Priest off the Hook

Sunday Times [South Africa]
August 2, 2006

Rape charges against a Durban Roman Catholic priest have been withdrawn on humanitarian grounds, the Mercury website reports today.

His doctor told the Durban Regional Court yesterday the 75-year-old cleric was very ill, suffering from dementia and could not appear, let alone defend himself against the charges. A 38-year-old woman, who lives abroad, claimed the priest raped when she was a child.

Prosecutor Val Lotan handed in a report compiled by a district surgeon who visited the priest this week.

His finding was that the priest could not attend his trial nor defend himself against the charges. Lotan said that the state would withdraw the charges on humanitarian grounds in light of the two doctors' reports.

When the priest was first arrested in 2004, he appeared fit and healthy.

But with each court appearance - including a protracted application for a permanent stay of prosecution - the deterioration in his physical condition was evident. At his last appearance last October, when Levitt ruled that he should stand trial, he was visibly frail.

He was charged with raping the woman between 1976 and 1979, when she was aged between eight and 11.

During the permanent stay application, the court heard that the man had been her parish priest, her school chaplain and had been having an affair with her mother.

The woman did not tell anyone about the rapes, among others because she did not want to attract attention to her mother's affair.



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