Panayiotou loses bid for access to case docket

2015-12-08 14:08
Christopher Panayiotou heads down to the holding cells. (Derrick Spies, News24)

Christopher Panayiotou heads down to the holding cells. (Derrick Spies, News24)

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Port Elizabeth – Christopher Panayiotou’s High Court bid to gain access to the case docket in which he stands accused of orchestrating the murder of his wife, Jayde, has failed.

On Tuesday, Judge John Smith dismissed the application outright in the Port Elizabeth High Court.

In the judgment, Smith said the State had established that there were reasonable grounds for its belief that allowing access to the contents of the docket at this stage could lead to disclosure of policing methods and strategies in terms of the investigation.

It could also lead to tampering with evidence and interference with state witnesses.

State prosecutor Marius Stander argued last week that one of the reasons that bail had originally been denied was because of the possibility that Panayiotou would interfere with state witnesses ahead of his trial. 

He referred to statements submitted by investigating officer, Kanna Swanepoel, that defence attorney Alwyn Griebenouw, acting on instructions from Panayiotou, had on more than one occasion approached Danie Gouws, who is representing Panayiotou's mistress, Chanelle Coutts, to provide him with a copy of her affidavit. 

Swanepoel also indicated that Griebenouw had attempted to make contact with Clarissa Kapp’s father to determine who her legal representative was. Kapp is Coutts's best friend, and is also a State witness. 

Swanepoel also said Griebenouw claimed that Donovan Vosloo, an IT technician who had allegedly wiped information from Panayiotou’s and Coutts’s phones, was a defence witness and had tried to obtain Vosloo’s affidavit, when he had been explicitly informed that Vosloo was a state witness.

Smith said Griebenouw had disputed Swanepoel’s averments regarding his own conduct in a responding affidavit.

Denial of a fair trial 

Smith found that Senior Advocate Albert Beyleveld’s argument that the State’s refusal to allow Panayiotou access to the docket at this stage negatively impacted on his right to a fair trial could not be upheld. 

"The sensitive and complex investigations have not yet been concluded and a trial date is yet to be set," he said. 

Smith said it was therefore difficult to understand on what basis Panayiotou contended that he required the contents of the docket at this stage to prepare for trial.

"Once a trial date has been set, the applicant [Panayiotou] will be perfectly entitled to request access to the docket, and if the State persists with its refusal, the trial court must evaluate the matter…" he said. 

Smith said Panayiotou’s request for the docket was therefore premature and his assertion that the refusal of access impacted on his constitutional right to a fair trial was, at best, speculative.

Need docket for fresh bail application

Smith further found that Panayiotou was barred from gaining access to the docket in the form sought in his notice of motion for the purposes of a bail application, by virtue of the provisions of Section 60 (14) of the Criminal Procedures Act.

Panayiotou will next appear in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on January 11 2016 alongside co-accused Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, 30, and Sinethemba Nenembe, 28, who was more recently linked to the case.

Charges against Luthando Siyoli, 31, a bouncer at Panayiotou's nightclub in Algoa Park, who allegedly acted as the middleman, have been provisionally withdrawn after he turned State witness.

NPA spokesperson Tsepo Ndwalaza said justice had prevailed and they were happy with the court’s decision.

Read more on:    port elizabeth  |  crime

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