By Lee-Anne Butler
HIGH court judge Glenn Goosen showed “a measure of mercy” yesterday when he sentenced Port Elizabeth singer Iain McLaggan to eight years in jail for raping a British tourist at Shamwari game reserve in 2010.
But McLaggan’s tearful mother, Ellen Paasche, didn’t see it that way, saying she had lost faith in the judicial system and that coverage of her son’s trial had been a “legalised, public gang-rape”.
McLaggan was convicted in the Grahamstown High Court of raping an 18-year-old teenager, who was intoxicated at the time. The pair had returned from a night out drinking with a group of young international students at the game reserve.
While McLaggan’s legal team has applied for leave to appeal against the conviction, senior state advocate Nickie Turner has applied for leave to appeal against the sentence, saying it is too lenient.
Goosen has reserved judgment while McLaggan remains in custody.
In his sentencing, Goosen said 10 years’ imprisonment was disproportionate and would bring about an injustice.
“The accused is entitled to a measure of mercy. Imposition of the minimum sentence upon him would be unduly destructive of him and it would, in my view, not serve the overriding interest that society has in seeking to correct aberrant behaviour and to rehabilitate offenders back into the society.”
Goosen said the rape was not accompanied by additional violence and McLaggan was a first offender who had “the capacity to contribute valuably and positively to society and one who until now has displayed qualities which do him great credit as a person”.
He said a neuro-psychologist attached to University College, London Hospital, who examined the complainant – who is now 20 – found that she would have both short and long-term impacts because of the rape. During the trial it was found that the complainant had lived with a brain tumour for most of her life.
“The complainant experiences the rape as a significant setback, having survived a life-threatening illness and having begun to build an independent life. She will require long-term psychotherapy to ameliorate the impact of the rape.”
McLaggan’s counsel, Advocate Terry Price, argued that there was no evidence pointing overwhelmingly in any direction and that it was just the complainant’s testimony against his client’s, who has maintained that the sex had been consensual.
“Another court may come to a different conclusion. If this judgment is correct then the applicant raped her with the light on and with an unlocked door, knowing that any of her friends could walk in at any time. Another court might find that highly improbable,” said Price.
Turner argued that because McLaggan was well-educated he should have known better. She said aggravating circumstances prompted the state to push for a longer sentence.
“The victim was vulnerable and a virgin but he alleges that she initiated it and he just went along with it. The applicant was in a position of trust and he did not use a condom, putting the complainant at huge risk.”
But Paasche, a clinical psychologist, maintained her son was incapable of raping anyone.
“I know he is innocent. He has been a good example all his life. He would rather put his own life at risk than do anything to harm another person. Having to watch him go through this has been horrendous,” she said.
Paasche said the trial was slowly taking its toll on the family, financially and emotionally, and having to read all the articles about it had been upsetting.
“All the articles have been so one-sided and it feels as if no one is prepared to look at all the factors. It has been like public gang-rape, but it is legalised.
“The only thing he did was to succumb to sexual advances of this girl.”
This is a shortened version of an article that appeared in the print edition of the Weekend Post on Saturday, September 29, 2012.