PMB Bar irked by delays

2016-02-05 11:11
Advocate Penny Hunt arrives at the high court.

Advocate Penny Hunt arrives at the high court. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Members of the Pietermaritzburg Bar were “frustrated” when the investigation into the alleged bugging of their chambers by advocate Penny Hunt dragged on for years, the high court heard.

The police investigation was launched in March 2011, but by the time the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) declined to charge Hunt criminally in December 2014, her computer hard drive had never even been accessed, Adrian Rall, SC, testified yesterday.

He was testifying in the application by the KZN Society of Advocates to strike Hunt off the roll of advocates.

Rall said he could “understand” the unhappiness Hawks members Lieutenant Colonel Johan Meeding and Warrant Officer Rocco Vermeulen felt about investigating a “bugging” case, when their unit was tasked to investigate murders and robberies, but the Bar had a “different perspective”.

He agreed under cross examination by Hunt’s advocate, Peter Hodes, SC, that he and advocate Gerhard Roberts, SC, (both at times chairpersons of the Pietermaritzburg Bar Committee) had frequently telephoned the police concerning the investigation.

He and other members felt “incredibly frustrated” by the lack of progress in the investigation, and were disappointed when Attie Truter of the DPP’s office declined to prosecute Hunt, he said.

“I was asked frequently by members of the legal profession what was going on … the impression was that we could not get on and deal with this matter,” he said.

Rall said he had not pushed for an appeal against the DPP’s refusal to prosecute.

As far as he was concerned, the “horse had already bolted”, since Hunt’s computer hard drive was never opened and he believed it was returned to her, he said.

Rall confirmed that he favoured an application to strike Hunt off the roll of advocates, but the ultimate decision to bring the application had rested with the KZN Bar Council.

He said he did not know Meeding or Vermeulen, and had not known they were members of the Hawks when the investigation started.

Meeding had interviewed Hunt’s ex-secretary, Alison Bradbury, on March 11, 2011 in connection with her report that she found a recording on Hunt’s computer indicating a listening device had been planted in the advocates’ chambers.

Rall said he believed Roberts “had contacts” with the police and called them in.

When Rall found what appeared to be bugging equipment in the ceiling of the bar administrator’s office (on Sunday, March 13, 2011) “someone” had given him the name of a Captain Maistry to contact, but he did not know where he was from.

The court has heard that Maistry was with Crime Intelligence.

Rall agreed he had signed an affidavit the same day and also prepared an affidavit signed by the bar administrator, Esme van der Watt.

This was in support of an application for a search warrant to enable police to raid Hunt’s offices the next day.

Rall confirmed that some complaints against Hunt could possibly have been dealt with as disciplinary inquiries. He agreed that a resolution was taken initially (in November 2010) to deal with the alleged theft of the CCTV hard drive at chambers in terms of a disciplinary inquiry. He did not know why this never happened.

Hodes suggested there was “nothing clandestine” about the removal of the CCTV hard drive from the chambers.

He said Houston Impey, who admittedly removed it, “knew he would be caught on camera” on leaving the building, but did so regardless. Rall said this showed Impey probably did not know he was doing anything wrong, but said in his view a “distinction” should be drawn between Impey’s actions and those of Hunt.

Rall said as far as he is concerned, no individual member of the Bar was entitled to “do what they pleased” with Bar property. “Otherwise everyone could just walk out with the furniture,” he said.

The case is proceeding.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court  |  bar

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