Prosecution director drives to Paarl court to scold top defence lawyer

2017-03-10 19:01
Advocate William Booth. (Leánne Stander, Netwerk24)

Advocate William Booth. (Leánne Stander, Netwerk24)

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Cape Town – A deputy director of prosecutions in the Western Cape drove to Paarl on Friday to demand a probe into why defence lawyer William Booth had "double-booked" two trials.

Booth had arrived at the Paarl Regional Court, sitting in the Magistrate’s Court, for a criminal trial when Advocate Kevin Rossouw asked to address the court.

"I am here this morning because there is another matter in Cape Town in which Mr Booth is supposed to appear," he told Magistrate Joe Magele.

The prosecutor in that trial accompanied Rossouw to Paarl.

Rossouw said he was told that Booth would start the Paarl trial at 08:30 and the Cape Town trial at 11:00, but that it was unlikely there would be no delays.

The two courts are about an hour’s drive apart. The Paarl matter only ended around lunchtime.

One of Rossouw’s duties is case management, and he asked the court to investigate how the two trials had been scheduled for the same day.

"That is a waste of State resources. Witnesses are there."

'Personal vendetta'

Booth, looking infuriated, and said it was completely inappropriate for the court to be addressed, and that the "correct forums" should be used.

"With regard to any matter, arrangements were made timeously. Every person knew full well of what was transpiring."

The Paarl matter only started around 09:30. He said traffic was a major problem and he had been on the road for a number of hours on Friday morning.

"I take great exception to this kind of manner. I get the impression it’s a personal vendetta. I want to make it very clear. It is no more and no less than that. I will take necessary steps."

Rossouw stressed the court had a right to know.

"How would you have felt if you put a date down a few months ago and Mr Booth did not pitch up for court? How would you have felt seeing witnesses and victims at the back of the court and you don’t know why the legal reps aren’t here?" he asked the magistrate.

"What I am doing is cleaning up the system and making sure things are working better."

Thorny issue

Magele said he would have preferred someone else dealing with the complaint because he was presiding over the trial involving Booth and had concerns about fairness.

Rossouw said he understood it was a thorny issue and would stand down his application for an investigation until the trial was finalised.

Booth is defending Johan du Toit, who is accused of killing his wife Chanel on a wine farm in 2010.

Rossouw said the case was very old and he recommended that the court set aside blocks of booked court time so the matter could be concluded.

When the prosecutor in the Cape Town trial left the court, Booth followed her and demanded in a loud voice to know what her intentions were. She walked away without saying anything.

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