Lawyers’ tiff ‘may affect man’s trial’

2008-07-23 00:00

A south coast traffic officer charged with accepting a bribe has approached the Pietermaritzburg High Court over fears that he won’t get a fair trial.

According to court papers, his fears are based on the fact that his advocate told him he does not have a “good relationship” with Wynand Bezuidenhout, the acting regional magistrate (sitting at Turton near Port Shepstone) assigned to his trial.

Bezuidenhout was allegedly involved in a “personal attack” on the advocate and his wife during a social gathering 13 years ago.

At the time, both men were working as district magistrates.

It is alleged that during the function in 1996, Bezuidenhout referred to the advocate’s wife as a “stuck up b**ch”, and said she and her husband thought they were “better” than he and his wife.

A “heated argument with the threat of physical violence” then developed.

Since then, the two men have not communicated with each other.

Port Shepstone traffic officer Arther Warner says in court papers that after his advocate, who is from Durban, told him about the incident, he instructed him to apply for Bezuidenhout’s recusal.

He says that the state advocate heading the prosecution, Mahendra Naidu, “sympathised” with his predicament and did not oppose the application.

However, Bezuidenhout declined to recuse himself, saying he did not “believe he would be biased”.

According to Warner’s affidavit, Bezuidenhout was first approached in chambers to avoid the details of the alleged incident being made public, but he insisted on a formal application being heard in open court.

Warner alleged there was “no doubt” that Bezuidenhout was annoyed about the application for his recusal.

He said Bezuidenhout did not deny any of the facts stated by Warner’s advocate, that the event in question occurred or that Bezuidenhout behaved in the manner alleged.

Warner denies the charge of bribery against him.

Warner said he was one of eight traffic officers from the Road Traffic Inspectorate to be arrested on similar charges. Each of the officers are being tried separately, but his case is regarded as a “test” case.

The case was adjourned until August 19 by Judge Anton van Zyl.

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