SCA call for Swain

2014-04-21 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL High Court Judge Kevin Swain will not abandon his Pietermaritzburg roots when he takes up his new appointment at the Supreme Court of Appeals in Bloemfontein.

The Judicial Services Commission has recommended his appointment to the SCA but is awaiting formal confirmation by President Jacob Zuma.

When it’s official, Judge Swain will become the first Maritzburg College Old Boy and former senior counsel at the Pietermaritzburg Bar to make the prestigious move to the SCA.

Born and raised in Pietermaritzburg, Judge Swain told The Witness he is looking forward to the intellectual challenges ahead at the SCA but has no intention of giving up his home in the capital.

Judge Swain has fond memories of his time on the Bench in KwaZulu-Natal, where he experienced many “rewarding” changes in line with the demographic changes required by the Constitution.

He adds that three now-retired judges — Judge Piet Thirion, Judge Allan Howard (former KZN Judge President) and Judge Ron McLaren — played important roles in his career.

During his 26-year long practice as an advocate in Pietermaritzburg from 1977 to 2003, Judge Swain focused mainly on civil law.

However, as a judge he presided over many criminal trials. Probably the most high-profile being that of South Africa’s youngest killer, a 12-year-old Pietermaritzburg girl who hired two strangers off the street to kill businesswoman Radha Govender (59) while she lay drugged in September 2002.

Judge Swain agreed the case was unique, but preferred not to comment further, especially since the SCA decided to increase the original sentence he imposed on the child, one of three years under house arrest and correctional supervision. The SCA added a suspended sentence of seven years’ imprisonment to it.

Judge Swain and his wife, Anne, will live in a flat in Bloemfontein for the 20 weeks of the year he is called to duty there, but for the remaining time they will return to their home in Pietermaritzburg.

The couple have two adult children, Matthew (an advocate) and Natalie who is also a qualified attorney, though not practising.

Judge Swain is quick to praise three women in his life — his wife, his mother, Clarice, and his registrar, Jackie Holtz­hausen — whose support, he says, greatly contributed to his success.

“Anne has been a wonderful partner who has inspired and encouraged me,” he said.

The couple have been married for 39 years. Swain said Holtzhausen, his registrar since he became judge in 2003, contributed immensely to his career through her efficient and loyal service.

He describes his mother as “an inspirational and courageous person” who lived alone following the death of his father, Jasper in 1996, until a fall caused her to move to a retirement home in 2011.

Judge Swain is also proud of his association with Maritzburg College. He recalls the advice of headmaster Hector Commons to his matric class to develop self-discipline.

“I believe this has been key to my progress in the legal world,” he said.

The sport he enjoyed most at school and at university was karate. His current interests include reading, going to gym, wildlife, and relaxing in the scenic Drakensberg mountains.

Judge Swain was born on December 20, 1950.

He attended school at Merchiston and Maritzburg College and studied at the University of Natal (now UKZN) and Cambridge University.

While practising as an advocate in Pietermaritzburg, he lectured part-time at the university, and was an external examiner in the Law of Evidence.

He took silk on March 2, 1993 and was appointed judge on November 1, 2003.

Since October 2012, Judge Swain has regularly been appointed an acting judge in the SCA and said he had been welcomed there by his fellow judges.

Judge Swain said his fascination with the law is the challenge to establish what the true facts in a case are and to apply the legal principles to ensure a “just and equitable result”.

He said he is excited by the additional complexity of the cases dealt with by the SCA and the importance of the decisions, which are binding on lower courts.

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