Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sex assault cop back on the beat

This is so commonplace. Imagine this scenario in another country. It would never happen. A woman is gang-raped and the cop helping her grabs himself a feel ‘because he couldn’t fucking control his lust?!’

What the fuck are these creatures? Even animals can control their lust!

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A Khayelitsha-based police constable found guilty earlier this week of indecently assaulting a woman moments after she was gang-raped is back at his job.

His suspension was lifted after an internal disciplinary hearing ruled - contrary to the court finding - that he was not guilty of any wrongdoing.

The Cape Argus reported that Constable Albert Phoshoko, 28, had been helping the woman to cover herself after being raped by four men.

He commented that her "nakedness was arousing" and then deliberately fondled her genitals.

He was found guilty of indecent assault in the Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court and fined R10 000, of which R3 000 had to be paid before leaving court, with the balance due by October 31.

Magistrate Robert Matshikwe found that Phoshoko's crime had been proved "beyond reasonable doubt" and noted that he had failed in his duty to serve the community and protect the constitution.

But a colleague confirmed that he was back on the job and working the 6pm-to-6am shift. Asked to explain, provincial police spokesperson André Traut said police personnel faced dismissal only if given a prison sentence without the option of a fine.

Phoshoko had resumed his duties as a policeman and the matter was now finalised, he said.

The announcement of his return to work has been met with outrage by women's groups. "It is absolutely atrocious," said Carrie Shelver of Powa (People Opposing Women Abuse). She said it was no wonder the number of rapes reported to police was going down, because women were losing confidence in the SAPS.

There were a number of cases where police were the perpetrators in similar matters, and offenders seem to be granted a "blanket impunity".

Police "really are able to manipulate the criminal justice system, manipulating evidence and the system to ensure they got off and received the lightest possible sentence".

Police and government agencies were turning a blind eye in cases of gross dereliction of duty and criminal acts by their own staff. Internal procedures were "notorious" for letting police off the hook, she said.

A fine was not satisfactory in this instance, and the victim ought to consider a civil action against the police, she said. Phoshoko "absolutely" had to be fired from the police.

Her sentiments were echoed by Lisa Vetten of the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, who described the situation as "outrageous". She said it undermined any message that the police were trying to send that they cared for and were concerned about rape survivors, or that they took crime seriously.

She questioned whether Phoshoko had returned to a position where he would again be called on to deal with rape victims in the course of his duties.

DA community safety spokesman Lennit Max said that for Phoshoko to be allowed to continue working as a police constable was "immoral and irresponsible".

But Phoshoko received backing from police union Popcru. Popcru provincial secretary David Mbolekwa said that if Phoshoko had been dismissed the union would have contested his dismissal.

Even if a police officer was convicted of a crime, a disciplinary hearing could find otherwise, he said.

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