‘Bar unfair to us’ — Hunts

2017-04-11 14:00
Advocate denies ordering bugging of chambers.

Advocate denies ordering bugging of chambers. (Supplied)

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Advocate Penny Hunt has categorically denied in the Pietermaritzburg high court that she was ever responsible for “bugging” the Pietermaritzburg advocates’ chambers.

An alleged listening and recording device was recovered in the ceiling by members of the Pietermaritzburg Hawks when they raided the Hunts’ chambers on March 14, 2011.

Hunt is currently opposing an application by the KZN Society of Advocates to strike her off the roll of advocates over the alleged “bug planting” incident, and for allegedly causing a GPS tracker to be fitted onto the car of a colleague, Mergen Chetty, on whom it has been alleged she “wanted some dirt” during 2010.

She is still giving evidence before Judge Albert Kruger and Judge Connie Mocumie in the strike-off application, and the “tracker” issue had not been dealt with by the time the court day ended yesterday.

She will resume her testimony on Tuesday morning [today].

The “bug” in the ceiling was found by police in the wake of a fallout between Penny Hunt and her former secretary, Allyson Bradbury, who resigned with immediate effect on March 10, 2011.

Bradbury gave evidence that before leaving she revealed to then chairperson of the Pietermaritzburg Bar Committee, Adrian Rall, SC, that she believed Hunt had “bugged” the chambers and that she had once heard the voice of Bar administrator Esme van der Watt on Hunt’s computer when she clicked on an icon on the desktop computer called “Audacity”.

The court has also heard testimony by Houston “Tex” Impey, an electronics technician, who said he installed a bugging device in the ceiling of the advocates’ chambers at Penny Hunt’s request, and that he also caused a tracker to be put on Chetty’s car. He was paid a total of R15 000 by Hunt, according to his evidence.

However, Hunt denies she gave Impey orders to plant a bug in the chambers.

Asked by her advocate, Peter Hodes, SC, if she “ever asked Impey to bug the offices of Esme van der Watt”, Hunt replied: “Absolutely not”.

Instead she testified that the reason she paid Impey was to “sweep” her offices on August 30, 2010, because she suspected that she herself was the victim of “bugging” due to a sensitive case she was involved in at the time.

She said a client and member of the security industry, Dennis de Beer (who presently can’t be found), had introduced Impey to her after she told him about finding “dust” on her table and voiced her suspicions to him.

According to Hunt, Impey and his son recovered an “orange bug” from the ceiling and reported that there were also wires there indicative of bugging activities.

An expert, Leonardo Nardi, gave evidence on Hunt’s behalf in the case that the “orange bug” was functional, although it was not a sophisticated type of bug.

Hunt says she put the “bug” into the bottom drawer of her desk.

She said after finding it, as well as evidence supporting her belief that some of her e-mails were being intercepted, she had asked Impey to regularly monitor their offices for security purposes. This was why she paid him two further sums totalling R10 000. She also paid De Beer an amount of R4 583,06.

For the most part yesterday Hodes took Hunt painstakingly through many files and documents containing correspondence between Penny and her husband Cameron and various members of Bar committees concerning disciplinary issues raised against them.

The couple contend their treatment by the Bar was “unfair and biased”.

Both Hunts testified that it was unprecedented, and only ever in connection with their matters, that the local Bar Committee ever issued press statements relating to internal disciplinary issues.

The first time this happened was in the wake of an incident where Cameron Hunt, SC, admittedly punched Chetty at a function on June 11, 2010.

Penny Hunt testified that despite her numerous appeals to various members of the Bar for a fair hearing of the various matters, she was not afforded a hearing.

She said that despite providing the Bar with an affidavit giving her version surrounding allegations that she caused Impey to “remove” the CCTV hard drive from the chambers when she had wanted to get footage of Chetty, the Bar ignored her version.

She said she told them all along — and Impey confirmed in his affidavit — that she only ever asked him to “burn” footage to a CD and that he never intended to permanently remove the hard drive.

Hunt said it was only last year, during the current strike-off application, that the KZN Society of Advocates saw fit to drop this charge against her.

The case is proceeding.

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