'Procedure' Sees Rape Conviction Set Aside

Article excerpt

A MAN convicted of raping, drugging and intimidating a 14-year-old girl had his conviction and an effective 16-year sentence set aside because a magistrate who had jailed him hadn't followed proper procedures in taking the complainant's oath.

This was a ruling handed down by a full Bench of the Western Cape High Court yesterday, almost three years after Lance Bessick was convicted in the Atlantis Regional Court on July 21, 2009, of rape and intimidation. The judgment did not name the magistrate.

The grounds on which the trial court found Bessick guilty rested mainly on the testimony of the complainant, who was 15 when she testified.

According to a judgment penned by Judge Robert Henney - and agreed to by Judge Anton Veldhuizen and Acting Judge Joey Moses - the magistrate had taken "insufficient" steps to obtain the complainant's oath.

She had asked the complainant whether she understood the meaning of an oath or affirmation, to which the girl had replied "no". …