As activists last week took to the streets in protest against gender-based violence, two men who were convicted of gang rape more than 25 years ago were thwarted in their damages claim for wrongful imprisonment, thanks to a decision showing strong judicial sensitivity to the problem. Years before tough minimum sentences were introduced for rape, the accused were given an effective 2½ years for kidnapping and rape, despite evidence that the woman was running naked in the streets, crying for help. Denying rape, the five men said they had paid her for sex. On appeal to the high court, the sentence was increased to five years. Then one of the men challenged his conviction at the Supreme Court of Appeal, where the judges found a trial irregularity — the prosecutor had not told the defence of statements in which the woman said she was a prostitute. As the woman had denied being a sex worker, the statements, if they had been disclosed, might have caused the magistrate to question her credi...

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