WINDHOEK - High Court Judge President Petrus Damaseb yesterday sentenced convicted child trafficker, Bertus Koch, the DRC settlement of Swakopmund resident to an effective eight years imprisonment on convictions of child trafficking and committing an immoral act with a child under the age of 16. The sentence was meted out in the morning.
Judge Damaseb ascertained Koch received and harboured five minor girls, which makes him guilty of child trafficking, but not that he raped them. It was however proven, the judge noted, that he made “lewd and lascivious” suggestions to the complainants which amounts to an offence under the Combatting of Immoral Practices Act.
Koch, 43, was charged with the rape and trafficking of the children aged nine, 11, 12 and 13 on diverse occasions in the DRC settlement of Swakopmund.
Yesterday Judge Damaseb told Koch: “What you exposed these young girls to will be forever etched in their memories and will most likely define their futures – not in a positive way, but negatively. So I want you to understand that although I found that you did not commit contact sexual crimes against the complainants, the conduct which I found you guilty of is no less reprehensible.” He further said he is still puzzled by the regularity with which the complainants visited the home of the prisoner (Koch) if one considers the horrible things attributed to him.
“The morally harmful pornographic pictures displayed on the walls of his bedroom seems to me to be one possible attraction why the minors kept going to his home time and again and it was during these visits that he at times indecently exposed himself to them and demanded to have sex with them,” the judge said, and continued: “Mr Koch, in the manner you exposed the young victims to such morally deplorable and harmful material and lewd conduct, you betrayed the community’s trust. Society expects of adults to look out for the vulnerable and not to exploit them. Your betrayal of that trust aggravates the offences you committed.”
The judge, however, accepted Koch’s version he did not use force to make the complainants frequent guests at his home and to return there, time and time again.
The flipside, the judge said, is that there certainly was something that they found fascinating or irresistible being in his presence and in his dwelling – in circumstances which exposed them to harm. “He had thus abused their innocence and betrayed society’s trust that adults will not abuse children,” Judge Damaseb added.
According to the judge president, Koch did not show any remorse which is aggravating, but he has no previous convictions and suffers from a serious ailment which could potentially reduce his lifespan – factors which weigh in his favour. “He is a poor man on whom life has not been kind. He makes ends meet in very trying and unenviable circumstances, but that cannot excuse the conduct I found him guilty of,” the judge remarked. He went on to say the chances that Koch will be homeless and still unemployed when he regained his freedom are great, given the kind of dwelling he made his home, and the fact that he does not have any meaningful professional qualification to his credit. “Considerable mercy is therefore called for in view of his personal circumstances,” Judge Damaseb emphasised.
He sentenced Koch to five years each on the child trafficking counts with one year suspended for five years on condition that he is not convicted on a charge of child trafficking or committing or attempting to commit sexual acts with a child under the age of 16.
Three of the sentences will run concurrently with the sentence on the first count of the child trafficking convictions, leaving him with eight years.
He was further sentenced to one year each on the immoral practices convictions, ordered to run concurrently with the third count of child trafficking convictions.
Koch was represented by legal aid lawyer Mpokiseng Dube and the state by Advocate Innocencia Nyoni.