High Court acting Judge Petrus Unengu yesterday confirmed that Dragan Vujcin, convicted of several counts of rape of under-aged girls during 2013 and 2014, will spend at least the next 23 years behind bars when he dismissed an appeal lodged by the self-proclaimed paedophile.
After Swakopmund regional magistrate Gaynor Poulton convicted Vujicin on 13 counts of rape and trafficking in persons and sentenced him to 35 years effectively, he lodged an appeal against four of the counts involving a seven-year-old girl.
According to him, the child testified that he never penetrated her.
He further claimed the magistrate was wrong when she found that he trafficked the child in question, as she refused to answer questions during cross-examination.
Unengu, in agreement with acting Judge Kobus Miller found that – as conceded by prosecutor Innocencia Nyoni – the child indeed testified that Vujicin never touched her private parts or penetrated her.
They thus upheld the appeal on that count.
However, the judges said, with regards to the other counts, evidence was produced that the complainant indeed masturbated the accused.
According to the judges, the complainant testified as follows: “After they finished masturbating him, he gave them money to go buy and instructed them to come back after buying. When they came back, the appellant told them to apply butter on the bread and then he called them into the room and made them undress their panties. In the room, he had them sit and then inserted his finger in their vaginas.”
The judges further remarked that in relation to the charge of trafficking in persons, they have no doubt there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Vujicin trafficked the minor child by receiving her and harbouring her at his residence for the purpose of sexually exploiting her.
Having discussed and considered all the facts, Unengu said, he found that the magistrate properly and correctly found that Vujicin is guilty on the other counts he appealed against.
With regards to the appeal against the sentence, the judges said, the trial court has the discretion in sentencing and the appeal court can only interfere when that discretion was not properly exercised or there was an irregularity in the proceedings.
In the present matter, they said, Vujicin was sentenced to 35 years, which means that pending his behaviour while in custody, he could be eligible for parole after 23 years.
“I am not persuaded that the discretion in sentencing the appellant was not exercised properly by the learned magistrate that there were any irregularities committed by the trial court,” the judges stated.
They further said the sentence also does not fall within the context of inordinately long sentences that would extend beyond the life expectancy of an offender.
They went on to say that the learned magistrate imposed an appropriate sentence, taking into account that Vujicin committed the offences when he was already at an advanced age, which fact should not be an impediment to the imposition of an appropriate sentence as the learned magistrate did.
Vujicin was represented by legal aid lawyer Mpokiseng Dube.