|The recent sentencing of 40-year-old Warren Troy Knoop to 32 life terms and 170 years in prison for 870 crimes of rape, exploitation, sexual assault and child pornography received worldwide media attention.
This lengthy sentence is but one of many that has been handed down to sexual offenders recently and is indeed a confirmation that the South African Police Service remains dedicated to bringing to justice those responsible for offences committed against women and children.
Earlier this year, 36-year-old Dawie de Villiers, a model boss from Kempton Park who sexually exploited and defrauded young girls in the modelling industry was found guilty on 25 charges of sexual-related crimes. The case has been postponed to 8 March 2017 for sentencing.
Lonwabo Solontsi, 28-years-old, who allegedly raped 40 females between the ages of 16 and 46 years in four different provinces is currently serving a life sentence for rape which he committed at 22 years of age. He will appear in the Grahamstown High Court on 24 February 2017 on additional charges.
Another alleged serial rapist, a 48 year old man, was arrested in the Northern Cape after months of intensive investigations and he was charged with several counts of rape. The case has been postponed until 6 March 2017.
A total of 346 life sentences for rape and sexual-related offences have already been secured during this financial year. The accused were convicted by various courts in the country after they were found guilty of these offences.
The numerous arrests and successful prosecutions are the outcome of the dedication and commitment of the SAPS members attached to the 176 Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Units across the country.
In its resolve to fight crimes against women, children and vulnerable groups, the SAPS re-established the FCS Units in June 2010. The FCS is a specialist environment established to deal with gender based violent crimes including sexual offences and to protect the rights and dignity of victims of abuse as a result of domestic violence, sexual offences and harassment by ensuring that these crimes are thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators face the full brunt of the law.
Since its re-establishment, the FCS Units have made a significant impact in successfully fighting these crimes. As a result, in the 2015/2016 financial year the conviction rate on crimes against children, (persons younger than 18 years), increased by to 77.36%. The conviction rate for crimes against women (persons older than 18 years) increased to 82.85%.
To further ensure that victims of crimes are treated with dignity and that their rights are protected, the SAPS established 1046 Victim Friendly Rooms (VFRs) at police stations across the country where victims can be interviewed and statements taken in private by well trained staff.
While the SAPS has been dealing a decisive blow to the perpetrators of crimes against women, children and other vulnerable groups, the sexual exploitation of children online remains a matter of concern. The SAPS established another leg within the FCS namely the Serial and Electronic Crimes Investigation (SECI) Unit to mainly combat cybercrime across clusters.
Also of concern is the recent arrest of a couple after they allegedly sold pornographic material of their own 14 year old daughter.
The SECI unit received information from the United States Homeland Security after they had arrested a man in October 2016 in North Carolina for being in possession of pornographic material of the young South African girl.
The couple and the child were traced to Vredenburg in the Western Cape following months of investigation. The couple was arrested and they are currently in police custody facing 10 charges including rape, sexual assault, manufacturing, possession and distribution of pornographic material and sexual exploitation of a child. They appeared in the Vredenburg Magistrates’ Court on 16 February 2017 and they have been remanded in custody until 23 February 2017.
“The SAPS is committed to protecting women, children and vulnerable groups and bringing the perpetrators of such crimes before the courts. We are appreciative of the dedication of our detectives and the sterling efforts of the prosecuting authority in ensuring convictions in court. We ask that all community members be vigilant and report any suspicious or criminal activities to the police. You can report crime to your nearest police station or to Crime Stop on 08600 10111,” said the Acting National Commissioner, Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane.