Court mistake costs man 3 years in jail

By Drum Digital
26 November 2013

Failure by a high court judge's registrar to record that a man had been granted bail cost him three yes in jail,

Failure by a high court judge's registrar to record that a man had been granted bail cost him three years in jail, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg heard on Monday.

This mistake prompted Sivion Mkhize, 28, who was later set free after an appeal, to launch a R16m claim, plus loss of earnings, against the minister of justice and constitutional development.

The minister's counsel was opposing the claim on the basis that it was no longer valid as it was more than three years old.

Acting Judge Piet Bezuidenhout will decide on the claims and defence.

Mkhize, from Ladysmith, was convicted of murder and aggravated robbery in the Dundee Circuit Court by Judge Leona Theron in February 2001.

She sentenced him to jail for life for murder, plus 15 years for aggravated robbery at a garage near Ladysmith.

Two of his co-accused absconded, leaving Mkhize as the sole accused.

Theron granted him leave to appeal because part of the evidence against him rested on voice identification.

She also granted him R5 000 bail.

Mkhize's leave to appeal was recorded but not his access to bail.

He was sent to Waterfall Prison in Utrecht where officials refused to release him on bail.

Eventually Mkhize wrote to the then Judge President of KwaZulu-Natal, Judge Vuka Tshabalala, who wrote back to him informing him that he had been granted leave to appeal, but not bail.

Despite efforts by Mkhize and his family to have the record set straight he stayed in jail until February 2004 when a full Bench set aside his conviction and freed him.

An emotional Mkhize told the court that he started doubting his mental condition while in prison as both he and his family knew he had been granted bail, but he was still in prison.

The matter continues.

- SAPA

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