Judge Hennie de Vos today in the High Court in Pretoria found two parents guilty on charges of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, and the neglect of a child in terms of the Children’s Act after they abused their baby since the age of five weeks in March until July 2020. Sentencing will take place on 6 and 7 December 2021. AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit is acting in accordance with a watching brief in this matter and also assisted the plaintiffs in the case with the laying of criminal charges at the SAPS.
The ruling comes after the unit assisted two doctors and a social worker in July 2020 in laying criminal charges of child abuse against the parents of a five-month-old baby. Doctors of the same hospital previously lodged complaints of child abuse against the parents with the police when the baby was only five weeks old. Although the police initially investigated the case and arrested the father of the victim, the matter was withdrawn by the prosecutor two months later due to a lack of evidence.
The baby was in a critical condition and admitted to Eugene Marais Hospital on 1 July 2020 with pneumonia, shock and dehydration. She also weighed far less than what is normal for her age and was ravenously hungry. Further tests indicated that her collarbone had fractured and according to the doctors excessive force is needed for a baby’s collar bone to be broken. An MRI scan showed injuries that were most probably caused when someone shook her violently causing her head to shake from shoulder to shoulder. Both of her femurs were broken, and the signs of several fractured ribs were still visible. The judge concluded in his judgment that the baby sustained 31 fractures on assaults that occurred on at least five occasions.
Furthermore, both of her femurs were broken and evidence indicated to several fractured ribs. According to one of the medical experts who testified, the injuries to her ribs had to be caused by someone squeezing the baby excessively and this is the type of injury that is caused on purpose. All of the doctors who examined her, agreed that it is very likely that the baby suffered chronic abuse of a serious nature and would have died from her injuries if she had not received medical attention. The court accepted the testimonies of all the doctors and rejected the versions of both accused.
“Today’s judgement is a victory for this child and also for justice. We must not forget that the real heroes in this case are the doctors who treated this child. The Private Prosecution Unit had to become involved in this case to ensure that the parents were held responsible for their deeds and we welcome the successful prosecution of the accused persons by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). It is successful prosecutions such as this one which once again confirms that the pressure which the Unit exerts ensures that cases in which prima facie proof exists, are brought before the court. We are currently involved in similar matters and will not hesitate to take the necessary steps to remove any hesitancy on the part of the NPA to prosecute cases of violence against women and children,” says Adv. Phyllis Vorster, prosecutor at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit.