Judge Hilary Squires: A family man who made history in SA law

2019-07-28 19:20


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While he was best known for his judgment in the prosecution of Schabir Shaik, Judge Hilary Squires was also a family man who lived a quiet, modest life outside of the judiciary.

"For the family, this is a time of remembrance rather than grief. He was a very private man. Outside his judicial role, he was a very kind, thoughtful and friendly sort of fellow. He had a very wide circle of close friends. He lived very quietly as a family man," his son-in-law, Ian Cox, told News24 from Squires' home on Sunday.

Squires, who sentenced Shaik to 15 years in prison for corruption, died of heart failure at his Westville home on Monday - a few days before his 87th birthday.

Cox, a lawyer by profession, said Squires' judicial reputation and the man himself were in stark contrast to each other.

"Even on the bench, among his fellow judges, he was very popular. He made a very good friend. I am a lawyer myself, but we never talked shop. As a judge, you just don't talk about what you are doing."

He said the memories which stood out were happy family moments.

"My memories of Hilary are family related. Sitting around, reading to my kids, having Sunday meals. We also discussed history. He was extraordinarily widely read. We would talk about the American civil war and the Second World War and things like that."

Advocate Billy Downer, who prosecuted Shaik, said he didn't know Squires before the infamous trial.

"I had no idea of his track record. Meeting fresh was quite extraordinary because he was very old school. He was the sort of judge who was entirely correct and never let slip what he was thinking or which way he was going."

"He was very dispassionate, very cool, which is a professional quality. He also treated everyone extraordinarily courteously, including witnesses, accused and any counsel in court."

Downer said Squires was strict about cellphones in court.

"If anyone dared to let their cellphone go off during proceedings, he would have it confiscated for the day."

Setting a precedent

Referring to the Shaik trial, Downer was full of praise, saying Squires had a sharp legal mind.

"It was a very detailed judgment and close analysis of difficult evidence. That judgment was so widely accepted by people who read it. Most people understood it and judicially, there was virtually no part of the judgment that has been criticised by any judge in all the appeals all the way up to the Constitutional Court. They agreed with every tiny detail of what he found. That gives you some inclination of his legal acumen."

He added that Squires was good at keeping his cards close to his chest.

"He was so courteous and completely dispassionate. I think looking back on it, he must have made up his mind at an early stage that this evidence would convict Shaik. But he didn't let on to anyone provisionally until the end of the trial."

Downer said Squires' characterisation of corruption, what is corruption and its relation to people who enjoy a mutually symbiotic relationship, clarified the law.

"It has been applied in many cases subsequent to that. His description of corruption legally has stood the test of time and has been widely applied. His description on the effects of corruption on society and how serious a threat it is to society, has been much quoted and relied upon in many cases subsequent to that."

Another prominent matter he presided over was that of Xerxes Nursingh, who was accused of killing his mother and grandparents in 1994.

When Squires acquitted Nursingh on the basis of a psychological disorder, it became a precedent-setting decision in that it was the country's first successful plea for temporary insanity.

Squires is expected to be laid to rest on Wednesday.

Attempts to contact Shaik's lawyer for comment were unsuccessful.

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