Church Leader under House Arrest for Sex Offences

Cape Times [South Africa]
August 4, 2006

A church youth leader, 29, was sentenced to three years' house arrest by the Parow Magistrate's Court yesterday for indecently assaulting his two young female cousins.

They had been molested over a period of seven years.

The man appeared before magistrate Caryn Lehmann, who said her main concern was his emotional need to be involved with youth, and his failure to address the problem.

The youth leader denied the incidents, and claimed he had "merely played housey-housey" with his cousins.

Lehmann said house arrest was not intended as a convenience for an offender, to keep him out of jail.

She told the man: "House arrest does not mean a suspended jail sentence, or freedom of movement - it involves treatment, which you need, and if you do not co-operate with the authorities you will be brought back here to be sentenced again."

Lehmann disagreed with defence counsel Marie Coetzee's assertion that the fact that the man had not used violence made the abuse less serious.

She agreed with prosecutor Herculine Swart that the man had abused his position of trust with his own cousins, and that this made it more serious.

Lehmann told him: "The severe shock and embarrassment suffered by victims often keeps them from reporting their ordeals, more so than the use or threat of violence."

She said it was a matter of grave concern to notice the increase in sexual offences of this nature, which evoked strong emotions in society.

Her court dealt exclusively with sexual offences involving victims under the age of 18, and she had this year alone so far completed 169 cases.

She added: "I have 214 outstanding cases, which gives an idea of the high prevalence of sexual offences in my juris- diction."

Lehmann said the man's sole motivation in molesting his cousins had been his own sexual gratification, and the incidents had happened when the opportunities presented themselves. The girls had been at impressionable ages when molested, and had looked up to the man as a church youth leader.

"The significance is that the incidents have fractured your family, and destroyed your relationship with both victims," she said. - Sapa


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