Australian-born former tennis Grand Slam champion Bob Hewitt has been granted bail after being sentenced to six years in jail in South Africa for raping and assaulting young girls he coached in the 1980s and 90s.
Victims attending the bail hearing on Tuesday reacted with anger to the judge’s decision to allow Hewitt to avoid prison for at least a month after his lawyers argued they needed more time to prepare his appeal.
“Six years is great, but if it is all just on paper and all words?” Twiggy Tolkien, one of his accusers who waived her right to anonymity, said, according to the News24 website.
“He’s just got to start serving it.”
Hewitt, 75, had pleaded not guilty to the two charges of rape and one of sexual assault that were brought against him by three women in 2013.
He won numerous Grand Slam doubles titles during his career in the 60s and 70s and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992.
But his name was removed from the Hall of Fame list following a series of sexual abuse allegations.
His wife, Delaille, who is recovering from ovarian cancer, had pleaded for the judge not to send her husband to jail, saying she would not able to cope alone on their citrus farm in Eastern Cape province.
Hewitt was born in Dubbo, Australia, but has spent much of his life in South Africa.
His lawyers were given until June 19 to prepare his appeal application.
Hewitt will be confined to his home until a June 19 hearing on whether he can appeal his conviction and sentence, Judge Bert Bam ruled.
The postponement is to allow Hewitt’s new lawyer, Johann Engelbrecht, to review the case records, Bam said.
Hewitt’s defence team wants the matter to be heard in South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal and will petition the chief justice if Bam refuses their application, said Alwyn Griebenow, one of Hewitt’s lawyers.
Hewitt can only leave his home on a small citrus farm in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province for medical appointments, according to the judge’s instruction.