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Pastor gets prison time
Wed, 30 Sep 2009 12:09 AM
A Richards Bay pastor who was convicted on four counts of
indecently assaulting young women while counselling them must go to
prison, the Supreme Court of Appeal found on Wednesday.
Pastor MP Coetzee, who was at the time working at the Apostolic
Faith Mission Church in Meerensee, Richards Bay, was convicted on
four counts of indecent assault and two counts of crimen injuria
committed against three women ranging in ages from 16 to 21 years,
who were members of his congregation.
The Richards Bay Regional Court sentenced him to an effective
term of four years' imprisonment after two years of his six years
imprisonment sentence was suspended.
An appeal against his conviction and sentence was dismissed by
the High Court in Pietermaritzburg.
Coetzee filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal against
his sentence only.
The SCA judgment said the court noted that the regional
magistrate recognised that the offences in question were not
committed in a violent manner.
The SCA accordingly held that there was no material misdirection
justifying interference on that basis.
The Bloemfontein court nevertheless said that the sentence
imposed was excessive and held that a custodial sentence of four
years was excessively severe.
In deciding this, the SCA took into account that Coetzee was a
first offender, the complainants were no longer young and immature
and appeared not to have suffered permanent psychological trauma.
In deciding on the new sentence the panel of three judges said
Coetzee nevertheless committed serious offences.
"The seriousness of the offences committed by the appellant
cannot be underestimated. He did not show remorse," the judgment
"He (Coetzee) abused his position as pastor and the position of
trust placed in him by the complainants and their parents. All the
complainants were vulnerable and in need of counselling. Having
regard to all of the above factors, I am of the view that a
custodial sentence should be imposed, but the length of the
appellant's incarceration be left in the hands of the
The sentence of four years' effective imprisonment (six years of
which two was suspended) was set aside and replaced with a sentence
of four years' imprisonment.