WATCH: Cape Town magistrate being investigated for 'texting' in court

2019-02-06 16:04
Magistrate Sean Lea and the court stenographer under investigation. (Facebook: Fazloen Hoffman)

Magistrate Sean Lea and the court stenographer under investigation. (Facebook: Fazloen Hoffman)

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The Magistrate's Commission has launched an investigation after a magistrate in Cape Town was caught on camera using his cellphone in his courtroom.

A stenographer seated in front of him, who appeared to be dozing off, is also under investigation.

An appalled Fazloen Hoffman took to Facebook to share photos and videos of Magistrate Sean Lea on his phone while she was attending a case in the Goodwood Magistrate's Court last week.

"Most of the time, he was engaged on his cellphone, even while cases are presented that require his undivided attention," she posted on her page.

"Everyone was shocked at his lack of interest which was, not only offensive, but so blatantly disrespectful of the impact it has on the lives of those he has authority over... I decided to film him doing the old-guy one-finger typing while the one court official known as Happy Mbabane was sleeping during the trials."

Hoffman said she confronted Lea afterwards.

Improper conduct viewed in 'very serious light'

"Mr Lea shouted that he was texting his boss Mr de Beer. [He] showed me the WhatsApp chat briefly," she said.

Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery noted the post and videos, saying that any issues regarding the judiciary were investigated by the Magistrate's Commission, not the department.

Commission secretary Mahomed Dawood confirmed that the matter had been referred to the ethics committee to institute an inquiry.

When asked what the code of conduct was for magistrates using phones in court, he said: "Considering that the matter is the subject of an investigation, this office is unable to provide any further details at this stage, as it may have the potential to compromise the investigation."

The justice department was investigating the conduct of the stenographer and had requested an urgent interim report.

"Access to justice means that members of the public should be able to have confidence in the courts and know that their issues will be resolved objectively, fairly and expeditiously," said Jeffery.

"We therefore view any alleged improper conduct in our courts – whether by presiding officers or by administrative staff – in a very serious light."

Read more on:    cape town  |  judiciary  |  courts  |  social media
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