Magistrate ticks off defence

2015-06-12 10:40


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Pietermaritzburg - Another twist developed on Thursday in the trial of 25 alleged members of a ­copper cable theft syndicate, when an advocate representing three of the accused came under fire from the presiding magistrate.

Regional court magistrate Corrie Greyling dismissed an application brought by advocate Amon Ngubane, who wanted her to order the state to ­provide him and the other defence ­representatives with “hard copies” of statements and documents relating to the case, in place of an electronic disc containing the information.

The documents are said to run to thousands of pages.

Ngubane, who was appointed by Legal Aid SA to assist the accused, said he did not have the necessary equipment to download the information and that he was unable to properly consult with his clients and prepare their defence, causing them prejudice.

But in a scathing judgment, Greyling said he was responsible for any prejudice to his clients because he clearly had not read the Legal Aid guide which clearly indicated that if he wrote a letter to Legal Aid explaining what he required, he could be assisted.

She said the defence representatives were given all relevant information ­pertaining to the case between June and November last year. Ngubane did not contact the Legal Aid offices after receiving the information electronically, and waited for seven months before bringing an application last month, she said.

Greyling said the state did not have a duty to satisfy the defence in every aspect where they had a problem.

She said the accuseds’ rights were not infringed as all necessary information was provided to the defence as far back as November last year.

Following the judgment Ngubane told the court he intends to discuss the implications of it with Legal Aid SA and will tell the court when the case returns on June 23, whether he will appeal the judgment, or withdraw.

A number of the accused expressed discontent, via their lawyers, over further delays in the case as they have been in custody since 2012 awaiting trial.

Eight of them were further disgruntled to learn that an attorney who had been appointed to represent them by ­Legal Aid, had to withdraw because he did not have rights of appearance in a regional court.

A new attorney is now going to be ­appointed to assist them.

Last month the accused voiced their frustrations by refusing to attend court.

This led to the case being conducted in their absence on that occasion and resulted in their later refusing to enter the truck transporting them back to prison.

It was only after members of the ­Pietermaritzburg dog squad intervened that the prisoners were loaded onto the truck without further incident

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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