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Sunday 18 February 2018

Bob Hewitt to be sent to jail after South African court rejects appeal

Former tennis champion Bob Hewitt outside a court in Johannesburg, South Africa (AP)
Former tennis champion Bob Hewitt outside a court in Johannesburg, South Africa (AP)

South Africa's Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by former Grand Slam tennis champion Bob Hewitt and ruled he must serve a six-year jail sentence for the rapes and sexual assaults of young girls he coached decades ago.

A panel of three judges at the Supreme Court of Appeal said in a written judgment that the prison sentence given to Hewitt at the end of his trial was appropriate and fits "the criminal and the crime".

Hewitt, now 76, was convicted and sentenced last year. The Supreme Court judges said he "showed no remorse for his vile deeds".

He was found guilty of raping two girls and sexually assaulting a third in the 1980s and 1990s. The victims were minors at the time of the assaults. They are now grown women who had to wait more than two decades for justice.

Hewitt "exploited the complainants' innocence and youth and forced them to submit to his wicked desires. He abused his position of authority and responsibility towards them," the Supreme Court judges wrote.

His standing as a "tennis icon" had no bearing on the case, the appeal court said, and his "celebrated status does not therefore earn him a special sentence."

The Australia-born Hewitt won 15 Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles. He also won the Davis Cup with South Africa in 1974 after moving to the country and taking on citizenship.

He has been held under a form of house arrest at his farm in southern South Africa since his conviction.

"His appeal has not succeeded and Bob Hewitt will be in jail for six years," Eyewitness News quoted Miranda Friedman, of Women and Men against Child Abuse, as saying.

"It is a massive victory for children all over the world who were abused and raped, who have now come forward as adults."

The United States-based International Tennis Hall of Fame this year expelled Hewitt as a member.

Hewitt has 48 hours to report to jail, said a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, Luvuyo Mfaku.

Press Association

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