Egglestone v. The State

Egglestone v. The State, [2008] ZASCA 77 (S.Afr.).
Download Judgment: English
Country: South Africa
Region: Africa
Year: 2008
Court: Supreme Court of Appeal
Health Topics: Sexual and reproductive health, Violence
Human Rights: Right to bodily integrity
Tags: Assault, Sex workers, Sexual assault

Natasha and Nicolette, high school teenagers, were hired as receptionists and lingerie models by the owner of an escort agency. The recruitment took place by means of pamphlets distributed by other female employees. During this interview they learned that the job did not just entail modeling lingerie, but rather working as sex workers. It appears that they were informed that they had the freedom to choose what part of the job they would prefer, for instance, as receptionists and/or lingerie models excluding sexual activities. After accepting the job offer, they participated in the training sessions, which included touching and fondling of their breasts, and vaginal, oral and anal sexual intercourse.

The Regional Court convicted the Appellant with rape, indecent assault, assault, and kidnapping, and sentenced him to twelve years in prison.  On appeal, the Cape High Court reduced the sentence to ten years in prison because it reversed the kidnapping charges.  He appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

The ruling began with a study of what constitutes "indecent assault", defining it as any intention, manifested through words or actions, to access the victim's sexual parts, whether touching them or not, but that given its nature or the circumstances, is of an indecent nature. It recognized that, while in the past the so-called "corroboration rule" was applied as a norm in cases involving sexual violence, at present the State must only prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore a special standard of proof is unnecessary in these cases.

The Court did not accept the reasons put forward by the defendant with respect to an alleged training for the young girl's future work as proof of her consent to having sexual intercourse. There was no mention whatsoever of training of a sexual nature in previous interviews, nor was the accused a client who would pay for the victim's sexual favours. Even in the case that this had been the actual situation, the Tribunal would not have permitted it, since a training that included sexual exploitation would have left no room for the employee's sexual choice, according to her preferences, to participate in it or not. For the Court, the situation is merely a reflection of a classical abuse of power on the part of the accused, given the victim's youth and inferior financial resources. The victim never gave her consent for the supposed training of a sexual nature. With respect to the petition to reject the victim's testimony on account of her behaviour prior to the assault, it would be unfair to do so, since that would place the victim in the position of being the accused party, when it is the appellant who must assume that responsibility, given that it is his behaviour that is illegal and immoral. The Court considered that the sentence passed by the Lower Courts is lenient, since a 10-year prison sentence for this kind of accusation does not take into consideration that the victim was the subject of an offense of an extremely serious nature, nor does it conceive this sentence as a possibility for setting an example to the rest of society. However, it admitted that it was not entitled to render it more severe. To conclude, it posed a reflection on the age and socio-economic condition of the victim, to point out how her youth and vulnerability made it possible for the accused to perpetrate his shameful, degrading and unfair criminal actions.

"[27] Finally I am of the view that taking all the evidence into account, the State had succeeded in proving the guilt of the appellant regarding all the rape incidents involving L. as well as the indecent assaults on her and on W. and D.S.. Those convictions were therefore properly arrived at and the court a quo cannot be faulted in upholding them. A factor that, I think, must not be lost sight of in this case is that even though L., W. and D.S. voluntarily went to the Stables, this did not mean that this was a licence for their dignity and integrity to be violated at will by the appellant. It appears from the appellant's evidence that this is what went on in his mind. He had targeted vulnerable young women who would respond to the prospect of making money due to their poverty. To him, immediately they came to his premises and were willing to go through with the interview and training, he was at liberty simply to do with them as he pleased. This, in my view, betrays the appellant's real intention that as long as they were on his premises they were his chattels to violate at will. Their dignity and integrity irrespective of the job they enlisted for, should have been respected at all times." Page 13.