Charges against UK fugitive in SA 'vague', based on hearsay – lawyer

2017-10-13 22:08
UK fugitive Lee Tucker (right) with a supporter, and his legal team in the background outside the Cape Town Magistrate's Court (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

UK fugitive Lee Tucker (right) with a supporter, and his legal team in the background outside the Cape Town Magistrate's Court (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town – UK fugitive Lee Tucker's extradition hearing was on Friday dominated by objections to the charges against him and a magistrate reprimanding his lawyer for the way he chose to present his case.

Advocate Christopher Burke, for the State, argued on Friday morning that Tucker was liable for extradition and that there was sufficient evidence to warrant his prosecution in the United Kingdom.

Tucker appeared unfazed in the dock of the Cape Town Magistrate's Court as Burke said he could not keep running away, as he had done for more than 15 years.

READ: UK child sex fugitive can’t make extradition case ‘magically disappear’ - prosecutor

He was arrested in March 2016, after a provisional arrest request from the UK.

Last year, he was declared a fugitive from justice.

Tucker was originally sentenced to eight years in prison by the Swindon Crown Court, South Wales, in 2001, but the sentence was overturned on a technicality and his retrial on 42 child sex charges was ordered.

Co-accused found guilty in retrial

His offences are alleged to have occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s and were linked to a paedophile ring in Bristol in 1998.

Burke said it was important to note that his co-accused in that matter, John Gay, did not run away and was found guilty of the same charges in a retrial.

Tucker's new lawyer, Advocate David Simonsz, replied by saying that the hearing should be following certain provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act, in that evidence first needed to be offered and charges put to the accused.

"We want to raise our defences but we have to look at what we have been given," he told Magistrate Victor Mhlanga.

He took issue with an affidavit by a UK police official that listed the charges, saying it was based on hearsay, "incredibly vague" and inadmissible.

His challenge was that the charges stated broad periods of time in which the alleged offences took place but sometimes did not specify a location or other details.

No 'piecemeal' rulings

Simonsz said authorities later "incorrectly" adjusted some of these time periods by a day because some of the victims would have turned 16 and the charges would have fallen away.

"How can this court determine liability if it doesn't know the crime?" said Simonsz.

"He may have alibis or explanations for where he was but how can he defend when given such a wide range?"

There was much back-and-forth on these points between him and Mhlanga.

Despite Mhlanga saying the proceedings were on the right track, Simonsz persisted with an argument that the court process should unfold in a different way.

Mhlanga refused to give him "piecemeal" rulings on issues such as the admissibility of evidence.

'I have personally failed' - lawyer

After a short break, Simonsz asked the court to postpone the hearing to a second day that had been set aside as a precaution.

Mhlanga said he simply could not fathom why Simonsz needed more time.

The lawyer became extremely apologetic and said his client was not yet ready to proceed with evidence.

"I had a view that first is leading of the evidence and then the charges. I have personally failed. I held these views in good faith."

The lawyer said he was asking for an indulgence and only wanted to do justice for his client.

A seemingly irritated Burke jumped up and said these were "ludicrous" delaying tactics.

"Does he want us to report him to the [Cape] bar? What does that help if Mr Tucker flees again?" Burke asked.

Mhlanga calmly told Simonsz he was "very disappointed" in his conduct while presenting his client's case.

"There is clearly no explanation for this delay. This is a court being very reasonable."

He postponed the hearing until October 20.

ALSO READ: Magistrate 'angry' at delay of extradition case against UK paedophilia accused

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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