Van Breda has the right to a fair public trial - Desai

2017-04-04 18:25
Henri van Breda leaves the Western Cape High Court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Henri van Breda leaves the Western Cape High Court. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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WATCH: Henri Van Breda arrives at Cape Town High Court

2017-03-27 15:25

There was more drama in the Van Breda family murder case as a ruling allowing media to broadcast the trial was subsequently suspended on Monday. Watch the murder accused, Henri van Breda, arriving at the Western Cape High Court. WATCH

Cape Town - The Western Cape High Court has a duty to ensure that the trial of Henri van Breda is conducted fairly and that the interests of the witnesses, and the processes, are protected.

But in terms of the Constitution, he has the right to a fair public trial in which the rights of the media and the public are also respected, Judge Siraj Desai said in his written reasons for granting permission for Media24 to livestream the axe murder accused's trial.

Media24 made an urgent application two weeks ago for permission to share the proceedings via its internet platforms, so that the public can follow the trial.

The company is backing up its application with section 16 of the Constitution, which guarantees certain rights to freedom of expression, freedom of the media, and the right to access to information.

Desai granted the application last Monday.

'Guarantor of democracy'

In his reasons, he said that, unlike a journalist's summary of the evidence, live coverage was a more accurate account of the actual evidence.

The State and Van Breda's legal representatives last week countered that they would be appealing the decision once reasons were given.

They previously argued that the livestream could alter witness testimonies, or intimidate witnesses while they testified.

Experts could also suffer reputational damage if the public tore their performances to shreds, the court heard.

Desai countered that the "bald claim" that recording equipment in court may be seen to be inconvenient or intimidating should not constitute a limitation of the Constitutional rights of the media and the public under Section 16, regarding freedom of expression - which includes freedom of the press and other media, and the freedom to receive or impart information and ideas.

"These freedoms constitute central pillars of the democratic state and help to ensure its proper functioning. As frequently stated, they are a guarantor of democracy."

Sister shielded

Van Breda's legal team opposed the application on the grounds that filming could impede his right to a fair trial. The appeal will be heard on Wednesday.

The legal representative for Van Breda's sister Marli, Advocate Louise Buikman, also stressed to Desai the importance of shielding her from the media glare.

Desai, in his ruling, said the allowances excluded images and recordings of Marli, as well as exhibits.

Van Breda will go on trial later this month, facing three counts of murder, one of attempted murder, and one of obstructing the course of justice.

His parents, Martin, 54, and Teresa, 55, and his brother Rudi, 22, were axed to death in their home on the luxury De Zalze golf estate in Stellenbosch in the early hours of Tuesday, January 27, 2015.

He handed himself to police in June and was granted bail of R100 000 on June 14.

Marli, 18, survived the attack, but sustained serious brain injuries and suffered amnesia.

* News24 is a wholly owned subsidiary of Media24

Read more on:    media24  |  henri van breda  |  judiciary  |  media  |  crime  |  van breda trial

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