Broadcasting does not cause reputational damage, psychiatrist says in Van Breda matter

2017-04-24 21:49
Henri van Breda  (File, Tammy Petersen, News24)

Henri van Breda (File, Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town – A psychiatrist, in support of Media24 application to broadcast the Henri van Breda’s murder trial, dismissed the argument that broadcasting the trial would lead to reputational damage to witnesses, saying the damage will be done by unprepared witnesses. 

“The (Oscar) Pistorius matter (which was broadcasted) had the effect of making unskilled or unprepared ‘experts’ think twice about entering the courtroom, which actually benefits the pursuit of justice,” Gérard Labuschagne said in an affidavit.

“Witnesses that suffered ‘severe reputational damage’ did so because they were poorly prepared for court.”

Labuchagne worked closely with then National Prosecuting Authority advocate Gerrie Nel during Pistorius' trial.

Van Breda was charged with three counts of murder, one of attempted murder, and one of defeating or obstructing the administration of justice.

His parents, Martin, 54, and Teresa, 55, and his brother Rudi, 22, were axed to death in their home on the luxury De Zalze golf estate in Stellenbosch in the early hours of January 27, 2015. He handed himself to police in June and was granted bail of R100 000 on June 14. His sister, Marli, 18, survived the attack, but sustained serious brain injuries and has amnesia.

Labuschagne's affidavit responding in response to an affidavit by psychologist Larissa Paniere-Peter in support of Van Breda. His responding affidavit was filed by Media24 on Monday following Van Breda’s request to appeal Western Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai ruling granting Media24 broadcasting rights to his trial.

Paniere-Peter in her affidavit argued that broadcasting the trial may result in witnesses with “unpopular opinion(s)” refusing to testify. 

“(This) may result in an expert or witness… refusing to testify in the matter, knowing that his or her view or perspective is going to be judged from the living rooms of others,” Paniere-Peter said.

Labuschagne dismissed her argument as speculative. 

“Many things ‘may’ happened, whether it is televised or not,” he said. 

Supreme court of Appeals (SCA) acting Judge President Mandisa Maya on Thursday issued directives to Van Breda, Media24 and the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) to file court papers by Monday in relation to the appeal. 

Access to the judiciary

Netwerk24 editor Johanna van Eeden in her affidavit said Media24 purposefully asked Desai to make a ruling that broadcasting from inside the courtroom will be ‘flexible’ and adjusted as ‘events develop’.

Van Eeden said broadcasting the trail gives access to people in rural communities to the judiciary. 

“Numerous (court) decisions recognised that the majority of citizens do not enjoy the privilege of living near courts, and do not possess the resources to travel physically to attend hearings,” she said. 

Van Breda and the NDPP filed an urgent application at the Constitutional Court to appeal Desai's decision to grant Media24 broadcasting rights. On April 13, the court dismissed it.

Both parties then approached the SCA separately.

Van Breda’s trial started on Monday. 

*News24 is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Media24, a Naspers company.

Read more on:    media24  |  henri van breda  |  cape town  |  media  |  crime  |  van breda trial

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