Sunday 22 April 2018

Former tennis star jailed for rape

Retired tennis player Bob Hewitt has been jailed (AP)
Retired tennis player Bob Hewitt has been jailed (AP)

Retired doubles tennis champion Bob Hewitt has been sentenced to six years in prison in South Africa for rape and sexual assault.

Judge Bert Bam sentenced Hewitt to eight years in jail for two counts of rape, with two years suspended. He also sentenced Hewitt to two years in prison for a third charge of sexual assault.

Judge Bam said the three sentences will be served at the same time, meaning Hewitt, 75, should spend up to six years in prison.

The judge also ordered Hewitt to pay about £5,000 to state-run campaigns against sexual violence.

Hewitt's accusers say he assaulted them in the 1980s and 1990s when they were minors.

Australian-born Hewitt denied the charges.

The seriousness of the crimes and the prevalence of sexual violence in South Africa had to be considered, the judge told the courtroom in the country's capital, Pretoria.

He cited previous cases in which perpetrators have been sentenced to life for rape, especially when the victims were children.

Hewitt won 15 Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles titles at all four Grand Slam events between 1963 and 1979. He was in the International Tennis Hall of Fame but was suspended indefinitely after an investigation.

Hewitt's age was considered during the sentencing, but so was the age of his accusers, the judge said. South Africa does not have a statute of limitations for rape.

"No rapist and violator of children should be allowed to hide behind his age, medical condition and/or personal circumstances to escape custodial sentence," said Judge Bam.

Before the judge ruled, Hewitt testified that he was in poor health. A heart condition, a stroke and two artificial knees mean that Hewitt can "barely put his left foot before his right foot", his lawyer Terry Price said at the sentencing hearing.

The judge extended Hewitt's bail for another day to allow his defence lawyers to appeal against the decision. Hewitt's defence team said they plan to appeal against the conviction and the sentencing.

Press Association

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