No guilt in fatal punch

2018-01-24 13:35

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A Howick man who punched a 65-year-old man who fell and died in the parking lot at St Ives restaurant, has been given a six-month suspended sentence for assault.

Pietermaritzburg magistrate Bhekizitha Phoswa could not find Grant Seaward (37) guilty of culpable homicide arising from the death of Petrus Coetzee.

He said Seaward, as a reasonable person, could not have foreseen that hitting Coetzee with a clenched fist might result in his death. It would be “far-fetched” to say he did.

“However, the court has to consider lesser offences … on the basis of the evidence, a competent verdict of assault has been proved,” said Phoswa in convicting Seaward of assault.

The magistrate said that the facts are that Seaward and Coetzee were at a spring festival party at the upmarket restaurant on September 3, 2015. Evidence shows that both consumed liquor.

The relationship between the two was not good because of a previous incident. Twice the day of the festival, the men met and “hurled insults” at each other.

The second time was in the parking lot. Seaward had told the court that he punched Coetzee, who was about 30kg heavier than him, to protect his wife from being attacked by Coetzee.

Phoswa said witnesses who testified had told the court that Coetzee could hardly stand or walk because he was so drunk. The question then was, how could such a person pose a danger to Seaward’s wife, himself or them both? The magistrate continued that the men hurled insults at each other. Seaward walked away with his wife. He turned and punched Coetzee and then left.

Phoswa said when Seaward punched Coetzee, the latter was not a danger to him.

“It is a situation where the accused obviously could no longer bear or stomach the insults and charged at the deceased, punched him once and he fell … the accused then walked away with his wife.”

Paramedics were called to the scene and they pronounced Coetzee dead.

When Seaward found out Coetzee was dead he thought “it was a bad joke”.

“Clearly the accused was very unfortunate. It cannot be naturally expected that if you deliver one punch, the person drops and dies.”

Phoswa criticised Seaward’s actions saying he should have acted within the confines of the law by either charging Coetzee or bringing a civil action against him. The magistrate added that Coetzee “as a human being” had the right to be free from any form of violence.

Phoswa thanked state prosecutor Ricky van Wyk and defence attorney Ig van Rooyen for making it possible for the case to be finalised yesterday.

Speaking to The Witness after the case, Van Rooyen said he was happy with the outcome of the matter.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  assault

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