Case of sexual assault and harassment of former acting judge on the roll again in May

The case on charges of sexual assault and harassment against a former acting judge was today in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court postponed to 16 May 2022 to allow for further particulars. This follows after AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit got involved in the matter after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) initially decided not to prosecute and the victim, a female advocate and member of the Johannesburg Bar, approached the Private Prosecution Unit for support.

AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit made representations to Adv. Andrew Chauke, the Director of Public Prosecutions in Gauteng (DPP), in October 2021 because no criminal proceedings had been instituted against the judge at that time. The DPP’s office in February 2022, in a letter to AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, indicated that, after receiving the representations, they would prosecute the accused.

The complainant also approached the Bar Council, the Johannesburg Society of Advocates and the Legal Practice Council, but received little to no support from these professional bodies. However, after the Private Prosecution Unit brought it to the attention of the LPC that the accused is now being prosecuted, the LPC, almost as an afterthought, decided to institute disciplinary proceedings against the former acting judge.

The accused further applied to the Judicial Service Committee (JSC) to be considered as a permanent judge, but he withdrew this application after prosecution was instituted. He also, after the complainant laid the charges against him, opened a case of crimen injuria against her, whereafter the investigating officer in the matter said to her that she could be glad that she is not being prosecuted on these charges. The NPA, however, indicated that they would not institute prosecution on the grounds of this charge.

According to adv. Phyllis Vorster, Prosecutor at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, the complainant in the matter has indicated that she has been advised by her colleagues to withdraw the matter as her actions may amount to career suicide. This confirms the complainant’s stated view that it is a dangerous career to be a woman in South Africa. Although unbelievable, we have come to realise that certain members of society (mostly male) are oblivious to the impact of sexual abuse on women. We will, however, not cease to support those victims who are brave enough to take a stand and say ‘enough is enough’,” says Adv. Vorster.

The complainant also indicated that she had been failed in all respects by the professional bodies that are tasked with investigating this type of conduct and that they had previously ignored or made light of the pain and trauma the accused caused her. “As a practicing advocate of the High Court of South Africa and a member of what is deemed to be a prestigious institution, the sequence of events has rather made me realise the reality of threats to my safety, career and livelihood. I am grateful for AfriForum’s intervention in the matter, because there is no other organisation that was resilient enough to stand against a system or specific individuals who are deemed to be invincible, or have the integrity and posture to protect those who are victims of the pandemic of gender-based violence in South Africa,” says the complainant.

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