Child sex predators are getting away with community service sentences, with magistrates and judges reluctant to pass exemplary punishment.In 2013, when a magistrate sentenced a man who had sex with a 14-year-old girl to an effective 12 months in jail, a judge rebuked her on appeal, saying it was “an extremely harsh sentence that she imposed without any plausible justification as it would have the effect of further prejudicing the accused person.”Now campaigners want law reforms currently underway to align legislation with the new constitution to reaffirm 16 as the age of consent and give judges more powers to issue deterrent sentences.“It’s terrible,” MDC lawmaker Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga [Umzingwane] said yesterday as she surveyed the current sentencing guidelines on sexual offences against children.The judge, citing earlier cases to buttress his point, added: “Her appearance is important because the moral blameworthiness of the man will be less if he wrongly believes, from her appearance, that she is older than she actually is.“Similarly, the girl’s character — whether she be virgin or promiscuous, a flirt or demure — must have a like bearing on whether the accused was knowingly preying on the innocent or merely risking lying with an underage but worldly-wise girl.”Magaisa says the attitude of some magistrates and judges like Justice Mutema is slowing down the campaign against child abuse.
it would not happen if all girls under 16 enjoyed the irrefutable presumption that they are incapable of consenting to sex.”When magistrates have tried to lean heavily on sex fiends, they have in some cases met resistance from higher courts.
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