Durban driver jailed for cyclists' deaths fights for bail

2018-06-18 14:09
Omesh Ramnarain has been sentenced to 10 years in jail. (Tania Broughton, News24)

Omesh Ramnarain has been sentenced to 10 years in jail. (Tania Broughton, News24)

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The magistrate who ruled that a motorist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for crashing into and killing two cyclists be jailed immediately did it just to punish him.

This was the submission of defence advocate Murray Pitman in his argument that his client Omesh Ramnarain should be freed. Ramnarain has been granted leave to appeal his conviction on two counts of culpable homicide and the "exemplary" sentence.

Ramnarain began serving his sentence immediately on May 25 this year.

His lawyers lodged a review of Durban Regional Court Magistrate Anand Maharaj's "no bail" ruling which was heard before Durban High Court Judge Mokgere Masipa on Monday.

READ: Durban motorist who killed 2 cyclists seeks bail, pending appeal

The crash, in which cyclists Richard da Silva and Jarred Dwyer were killed, occurred on the M4 leading out of the city in February 2016.

The cyclists were at the back of a pack on an early morning ride up the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast when Ramnarain, who was returning from a nightclub, smashed into them.

Reasonable chance of success in appeal

While witnesses said he smelt of alcohol, the blood test was taken outside of the legislated two-hour window period and was not admitted into evidence during his trial.

He claimed to have had four drinks during the evening.

Pitman argued on Monday that Maharaj had "not applied the law at all" in denying bail pending appeal.

"He recognised by granting leave to appeal both conviction and sentence that he may have been wrong."

He said his client had a reasonable chance of success, given his version that someone may have thrown a rock at his vehicle just before he hit the cyclists. It was this that shattered his windscreen, impairing his view of the road, not the impact.

A rock was found in the well in front of the passenger seat.

Ruling expected next week

"It is not in the interests of justice that he serve his sentence until the appeal is finalised which could take as long as two years...then the effect of any possible acquittal will have been obliterated."

Advocate Kelvin Singh, for the State, disagreed.

He said the magistrate had not acted "capriciously", and over the last decade, the practice of granting bail pending appeal had become more the exception than the rule.

"This is a serious offence, two people lost their lives."

He pointed out that on Ramnarain's own version there were only two seconds between the first bang and the second one, making it highly unlikely that the first had been caused by a rock.

"On his own version he had been drinking and taking medication. He should not have been behind that wheel.

"The sentence is not shockingly inappropriate...and even if another court interferes with it, the crime still calls for a period of imprisonment."

Judge Masipa will give her ruling next Monday.

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