PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - Plettenberg Bay anti-child abuse activists have thrown their weight behind a drive to oppose former tennis star Bob Hewitt's application to convert his six-year jail sentence to correctional supervision after only serving two years behind bars.
The 78-year-old Hewitt, once well-known on the international professional tennis circuit, was convicted in March 2015 of raping two tennis pupils – 12 and 13 years old at the time – and sexually assaulting a 17-year-old in the 1980s and 1990s.
He was only sentenced in September 2016 after his Constitutional Court appeal failed. He has been serving his sentence at the St Albans Correctional Centre in Port Elizabeth, close to his Addo home in the Eastern Cape.
Legal representative for the victims Peter van Niekerk confirmed that Hewitt has applied to have his sentence converted to correctional supervision, which can only be granted by the court.
The move has sparked massive public outrage including among anti-child abuse groups. Plettenberg Bay local Joanne Barret, who is also the Western Cape spokesperson of Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA), said she and several other locals have decided to throw their weight behind efforts to oppose the application as it has major implications, not only in the Hewitt case but local matters too.
"Locally we see more and more horrendous cases of sex crimes against children and the subsequent failures when it comes to finding justice for the young victims. Such a high-profile case will highlight their plight and therefore it is very important that Hewitt's application does not succeed," Barrett said.
The activist has been distributing a petition against the application which, by the time of going to print, had garnered close to 3 000 signatures.
"We at WMACA are outraged that Hewitt can make this application after an extremely short period served. These are horrendous crimes he committed," Barrett said.
'We will continue to fight'
She added that it took five years for Hewitt's conviction, after charges were laid in 2011. She further said Hewitt has the right to the application, but only after serving half of his term.
"We will continue to fight for sexual abuse victims as well as strongly oppose any applications in cases such as these where we see these people as sexually violent predators."
She said Hewitt should "definitely" not be allowed to serve his sentence under correctional supervision after only serving two years of his sentence. "Hewitt must serve his sentence and it must act as a deterrent for others. The petition is not just for the victims of Bob Hewitt, but for all the people who have been failed by the justice system."
To sign the petition visit click here.
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