Game might be up for slippery ‘child rapist’ hiding in SA
Change in SA law means UK can now try to extradite man accused of molesting stepdaughters three decades ago
Five years and a huge change in legislation later, SA authorities have finally been able to reach the home stretch in the extradition proceedings of a suspected child rapist wanted in the UK for molesting his two step-daughters.
The 72-year-old Scottish citizen has been living in SA for decades. In 2010, a warrant was issued for his arrest, two years after his now-adult stepchildren living in the UK laid indecency charges against him, claiming he had abused them for years.
The UK government indicated in 2013 that it wished to extradite the Roodepoort resident, and local proceedings have been tied up since 2014. But in 2018 a Constitutional Court ruling gave the state the ammunition it needed to fully argue its case.
The application submitted by the British Extradition Section of the Home Office details the years of abuse the women claim they sustained at their stepfather’s hand.
In an affidavit by Tracy Hall, the investigating officer at the Child Abuse Investigation Unit at Thorpewood police station in the UK, she said the man and his wife moved to the UK from Scotland in 1976, where he lived with her three children and their own biological child.
After a series of moves between then and 1995, including to SA, the family went their separate ways, with the couple divorcing and all the children and their mother moving to the UK, leaving the accused behind in SA. In 1992, one of the daughters broke down and revealed to her boyfriend that she had been abused by her stepfather as a child. After talking to her family she discovered her sister had also been a victim.
“On learning what (her daughters) had revealed, (the mother) confronted (the stepfather). In the course of this confrontation, (he) grabbed a gun which was kept in the house and threatened to kill himself. They then discussed the allegations of abuse, to which (he) made partial admissions,” Hall wrote.
“(He) admitted to sexually abusing (both daughters) but said he had not had full sex with them ... During their counselling sessions (he) admitted to having oral sex with both (the children) and making them touch him sexually. He said this happened for many years and had started as ‘a game’,” she continued.
However, it was only in 2008 that the two stepdaughters decided to institute criminal charges against their step-father. The police subsequently opened up a criminal case, charging him with three counts of indecent assault by simulated sexual intercourse, nine of indecent assault by penetration with a finger, and a further nine of indecency towards her by masturbation. The charge sheet indicates that each of these incidents allegedly took place when the two children were between the ages of six and 13 years.
Aaron Watkins, the barrister in charge of the case in the UK, also submitted an affidavit explaining that the Crown Prosecution Service wished to prosecute the man, and explained that such crimes do not prescribe, as they used to in SA. “There is no time limit on the institution of proceedings by the Crown for the offence of indecent assault on a female (or a child),” he wrote.
However, while the extradition proceedings initially began shortly after the application was filed by the UK, the state had to postpone proceedings on a number of occasions, even removing the case from the roll, pending the finalisation of two Constitutional Court matters.
The man had initially argued through his legal team that based on SA law the crimes against him had occurred more than 20 years prior, meaning they had prescribed and he could not be prosecuted, which was why the extradition proceedings should not go ahead.
In 2018, the Constitutional Court made a landmark ruling that changed the law around sexual assault, which now no longer prescribes after 20 years, meaning victims of historical abuse can open cases against their abusers decades after the abuse took place.
It was after these rulings that the man’s extradition application was re-enrolled at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court in 2018. In his most recent arguments through his legal aid lawyer, Jenna Clark, he said the British High Commission had formally withdrawn its wish to prosecute in 2016.
However, prosecutor Jacqui Drotsky was able to provide documents to the court from the British government that showed it still wished to prosecute the accused, and still wanted him returned to the UK.
On Monday, while the court was set to receive further documentation in relation to the matter, Clark requested a postponement to allow her time to peruse the documents, which she said she had yet to read after only receiving them that morning.
The court agreed, with the proceedings set to continue in March.
The man declined to talk to Times Select after his court appearance.