PMB advocate asked to resign from Bar after assault on colleague

2010-06-17 00:00

A PROMINENT Pietermaritzburg advocate, Cameron Hunt SC, has been asked to resign from the Pietermaritzburg Bar in the wake of what was termed a “vicious assault” by him on fellow advocate Mergen Chetty, at a function at the Advocates Chambers last Friday night.

The Witness was told that Chetty was knocked out for about five minutes.

Confirming the incident yesterday, Chetty said it was sparked when Hunt’s wife Penny poured a drink over his head causing him to become upset and swear at her.

“This happened in the presence of a number of people … I became upset and I swore at her and asked her what the f*** was wrong with her. I told her that she spoilt my weekend. I was going … but then I turned back and said to her, ‘You don’t ever do anything like that to me again’. I saw she was laughing. The next thing I remember was [some colleagues] putting me in the car with my wife, who rushed me off to hospital. I am told that Cameron punched me twice in my mouth.”

He suffered a swollen face, a bump to the back of his head, cuts to the inside of his mouth and some of his teeth are loose.

Apart from the physical injuries, he was also severely embarrassed, he said.

Chetty confirmed he laid an assault charge against Hunt with the police on Monday.

Hunt and his wife, who were contacted in between flights as they headed off on a planned overseas holiday yesterday, said members of the Pietermaritzburg Bar Committee have acted in “bad faith” by demanding Hunt’s resignation without hearing their version of events.

Penny Hunt told The Witness her husband did “what any husband would have done in the circumstances” and defended her when Chetty “lost all control” and became aggressive and abusive “using foul language” and pushing her in a threatening way during the incident. She alleged he had already left the room, but then returned “to have a second go” at her when her husband came to her defence.

She said the fracas was sparked by “what one might call boisterousness” on her part when she spilled “about two drops” of drink on Chetty’s head “without any malicious intent”.

Hunt added that she has also laid charges of assault and crimen injuria against Chetty with the police, and has complained to the Durban Bar about the failure of the chairman of the Pietermaritzburg Bar to entertain her complaint concerning the way in which Chetty treated her, which he dismissed as “nonsense”.

Hunt said she believes the entire incident will be unfairly used as “ammunition” by her husband’s detractors to attempt to have him struck from the roll of advocates.

The function where the events unfolded was organised by Pietermaritzburg advocates to bid farewell to newly appointed Judge Rob Griffiths, as well as to celebrate the start of the World Cup.

The function was well attended by members of the legal fraternity as well as about five judges, but was ending and only a few people remained when the altercation occurred.

The Society of Advocates, Pietermaritzburg, issued a statement yesterday saying it condemns “in the strongest terms possible, the vicious assault on advocate Mergen Chetty by Hunt, SC”.

“Members of the Bar are appalled by his conduct which is completely unbecoming of an advocate and brings the profession into disrepute. At an emergency meeting of the Pietermaritzburg Bar Committee on June 15, the committee unanimously resolved to request Hunt’s immediate resignation as a member of the Bar, failing which disciplinary proceedings will be instituted against him by the KZN Society of Advocates.”

The Witness was told by other sources that Hunt is known to have a short temper.

A legal source said if Hunt is forced to resign from the Bar it does not mean he can no longer practise as an advocate, only that he would have to work as an independent advocate.

Police confirmed yesterday that statements are being taken in connection with the case and said once investigations are complete the matter will be referred to the director of public prosecutions for a decision.

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