Robert McBride wins appeal, goes free

2013-03-28 15:14
Robert Mcbride (File: Beeld)

Robert Mcbride (File: Beeld)

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Johannesburg - Former Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride has won his appeal against a conviction of drunken driving and attempting to obstruct justice.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday concluded he was not guilty on all charges.

"The appeal against conviction on both counts is upheld," Judges Cynthia Pretorius and Lettie Molopa-Sethosa said in their written judgment.

"The appellant is found not guilty on all charges and is discharged."

McBride was arrested in 2006 after crashing his official car on the R511 following a Christmas party.

Earlier this month, the two judges reserved judgment in McBride's appeal against his conviction, as well as his five-year jail sentence.

In September 2011, a Pretoria regional magistrate sentenced McBride to two years imprisonment for driving under the influence of alcohol and an effective three years imprisonment for attempting to obstruct the course of justice.

Initially three of McBride's colleagues made statements supporting his version that he had not been drunk and did not leave the scene of the accident to evade justice.

However, five months later they testified that he had been heavily under the influence of alcohol and systematically set about covering this up with their assistance.

In his appeal, McBride argued the three former colleagues had themselves been intimidated into changing their story.

They were under investigation by the Organised Crime Unit (OCU) in a separate attempted murder matter and had been offered indemnity in exchange for statements against him.

McBride had previously clashed with the OCU.

About a month before his colleagues changed their statements, he had written to the SA Police Service asking them to initiate an investigation into the possible involvement of some members of the OCU in cash-in-transit crimes.

In Thursday's judgment, Pretorius and Molopa-Sethosa wrote there was clear evidence that OCU members had manipulated the testimony of the three.

Describing the three as "self-confessed liars", the judges said the magistrate had erred in finding their testimony credible.

There were "several strange aspects" to McBride's behaviour after the accident, such as trying to get medical certificates from a variety of doctors and driving to Durban to see a doctor.

The State had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the judges concluded.

"Although the appellant's action after the accident is suspect, it is not possible to draw the inference that the appellant was driving under the influence of intoxicating alcohol at the time beyond a reasonable doubt."

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