In a Twitter post on Tuesday, AfriForum Private Prosecution Unit spokesperson Barry Bateman said that the head of the AfriForum Private Prosecution Unit, advocate Gerrie Nel, had brought the latest assault incident to the attention of the prosecutor before sentencing, but it was ignored.
“As some people have pointed out, #JacoSwart allegedly assaulted a woman this last weekend. @Afriforum’s Adv Gerrie Nel brought this to the attention of the prosecutor before sentencing, but was disregarded. We also have a case number from another incident on Saturday,” Bateman tweeted.
Swart was sentenced to a R20 000 fine or a three-month prison term and a further three-year prison term suspended for five years.
He was sentenced after pleading guilty to charges of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm (GBH) for assaulting his wife, Nicoleen Swart at their car dealership business in Sinoville, north of Pretoria, in November 2018.
Despite the sentence being described as shocking by gender-based violence activists, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the sentence was not lenient as it was coupled with a suspended prison term.
NPA spokesperson in the Pretoria division, Lumka Mahanjana, said Swart was slapped with two sentences, one where had to pay a fine of R20 000 or go to jail for three months, the second sentence is the three-year prison term suspended for five years, meaning if he was found guilty of assault within five years, he would go to prison for three years.
She said usually people convicted with assault GBH were sentenced to pay a fine. In Swart’s case a suspended prison term was added.
Lebogang Ramafoko, the executive director of social justice organisation Oxfam SA told television channel Newzroom Afrika that the criminal justice system was not taking gender-based violence seriously.
“When you see many women who do not report any cases of violence this is exactly what they are afraid of, there are sadly so many stories where the criminal justice system, the courts are really not taking this issue seriously.”
Nel said the criminal justice system paid lip service to the fight against gender-based violence and there was “a lack of commitment and competence to take proper care of the victims”.
“However, we want to applaud Nicoleen Swart who decided not to remain a victim but to speak out,” Nel said.
Nicoleen told IOL that she said believed the sentence could have been more severe if the court had seen a video in which Swart was captured assaulting her.
The CCTV footage released by AfriForum Private Prosecution Unit shows Swart pushing, punching and kicking Nicoleen inside their car dealership.
According to Bateman, the matter was previously struck off the court roll.
Nicoleen and her family approached the unit for help.
“Advocate Gerrie Nel and his team made representations to the director of public prosecutions (DPP), and indicated that they were prepared to institute private prosecution. Thereafter, the DPP instructed in May 2021 that the accused must be summarily prosecuted,” he said.
“The NPA prosecutor applied to have the surveillance footage admitted for the purposes of aggravation of sentence, but the court disallowed this after the defence questioned its authenticity. AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit had hoped more was done to ensure the footage was admitted to the record, to allow the magistrate to view first-hand Swart’s violent conduct.”
Nicoleen said she get advice on appealing against the sentence.