A Fresh Perspective on Historical Sexual Abuse: The Case of Hewitt v S 2017 1 SACR 309 (SCA)





Sexual crimes, Historical sexual abuse, Rape, Children, Sports icon, Bob Hewitt, Mitigating factors, Aggravating factors, Remorse, Sentencing


Sexual crimes continues to be a scourge in our society. It is therefore not surprising that the prevention and criminalisation of sexual crimes in South Africa has received a large amount of attention over the last few years. Contrarily, the matter of historical sexual abuse has received only occasional consideration. Cases of historical sexual abuse present numerous challenges to all parties involved. The victims of historical sexual abuse, often children at the time, are now adults. Some of these victims might not want to relive the experience or confront the offender. On the other hand, the offender might have been rehabilitated and become a respected citizen. In Hewitt v S 2017 1 SACR 309 (SCA) the Supreme Court of Appeal heard the appeal against the sentence of Bob Hewitt, a retired tennis champion. He was convicted of committing numerous sexual offences against young girls. The first of these crimes was committed more than three decades ago. This case note analyses the decision by the SCA while it also examines historical sexual abuse more generally in South Africa as well as in England and Wales, in order to establish whether any lessons can be learned from previous cases and laws as implemented in these countries.


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Author Biographies

Windell Nortje, University of the Western Cape

Dr Windell Nortje

Associate Lecturer

Foundation Programme

Faculty of Law

University of the Western Cape


Pieter Du Toit, North West University, Potchefstroom Campus

Prof PG du Toit

Associate Professor

Law Faculty

North West University, Potchefstroom Campus




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Isely PJ “Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: An Historical and Contemporary Review” 1997 PP 277-299

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Case law

Hewitt v S 2017 (1) SACR 309 (SCA)

N v T 1994 (1) SA 862 (C)

R v Forbes [2016] EWCH Crim 1388

R v H [2011] EWCA Crim 2753

S v Barendse 2010 (2) SACR 616 (ECG)

S v Chapman 1997 (2) SACR 3 (SCA)

S v Combrink 2012 (1) SACR 93 (SCA)

S v De Vos 1970 (2) SA 590 (C)

S v Heller 1971 (2) SA 29 (A)

S v Human 1979 (3) SA 331 (E)

S v Jansen 1999 (2) SACR 368 (C)

S v Louw 1990 (3) SA 116 (A)

S v Malgas 2001 1 SACR 469 (SCA)

S v Matyityi 2011 1 SACR 40

S v Munyai 1993 1 SACR 252 (A)

S v Peter 1989 3 SA 649 (CKA)

S v Salzwedel 1999 2 SACR 586 (SCA)

S v Sinden 1995 2 SACR 704 (A)

S v Zinn 1969 2 SA 537 (A)

Van Zijl v Hoogenhout 2005 2 SA 93 (SCA)


Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Coroners and Justice Act, 2009

Criminal Law Amendment Act 105 of 1997

Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977

Sentencing Council Sexual Offences Definitive Guideline, 2013

Sexual Offences Act, 2003

Sexual Offences Act, 1956 (repealed)

Internet sources

Anglioni 2015 https://www.iicsa.org.uk/

Anglioni E 2015 Report of the Independent Review into the Investigation and Prosecution of Rape in London https://www.iicsa.org.uk/ accessed 31 January 2017

BBC News 2016 http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-38367103

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List of Abbreviations

CICJ Current Issues in Criminal Justice

IJCJ&SD International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social


NSPCC National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to


PELJ Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal

PP Pastoral Psychology

SCA Supreme Court of Appeal



How to Cite

Nortje, W., & Du Toit, P. (2017). A Fresh Perspective on Historical Sexual Abuse: The Case of Hewitt v S 2017 1 SACR 309 (SCA). Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 20, 1–21. https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2017/v20i0a2229



Case Notes