- Gerhard Ackerman, who is accused of running a child sex ring, allegedly attempted to evade trial last week, before being arrested on Sunday.
- Ackerman claims he did not do anything wrong, and his bail conditions had been amended.
- However, there is no evidence of these amendments, and the prosecutor and former investigating officers were also not informed of such an application.
Were the bail conditions of Gerhard Ackerman, who is accused of running a child sex ring, arbitrarily amended without the prosecutor, and investigating officer knowing?
This is one of the questions the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg will need answered after Ackerman allegedly attempted to evade trial last week.
On Thursday, he failed to appear in court where evidence was to be led about WhatsApp messages and voice notes he allegedly sent to his clients, including senior advocate and acting judge Paul Kennedy, relating to teenagers and sexual services offered.
Ackerman had told his legal aid attorney, Herman Alberts, he could not come to court because he was ill.
While the case was rolled over to Monday, Ackerman subsequently went missing and the police discovered on Friday he had sold his moveable assets and vacated the flat he lived in.
READ | Alleged child sex ring mastermind Gerhard Ackerman planned to flee to Botswana, court hears
On Sunday, after a warrant of arrest had been authorised the day before, he was spotted by members of the public and arrested.
Appearing in court on Monday, Ackerman attempted to explain his absence as the court is set to determine whether to cancel his bail or not.
A large part of the enquiry centred around his bail conditions, which he claimed were amended.
News24 previously reported Ackerman was out on bail of R5 000 for an alleged sexual assault involving an 11-year-old boy when he was arrested in July 2021 along with Kennedy.
The pair was charged with the unlawful possession of child pornography and multiple other crimes, including rape and sexual grooming relating to the operation of an alleged child sex ring.
While Kennedy was granted bail of R20 000, Ackerman's bail was refused. He then applied for bail again based on new facts. His application was granted on 9 July 2021.
All the bail applications in the child sex ring case were opposed by the State.The bail amount was set at R6 000 with these bail conditions attached:
- Ackerman had to report to the Fairlands police station five times a week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 06:00 and 18:00.
- He was not allowed to own or be in possession of a smart phone which could access the internet.
- He was only allowed to possess a laptop that belonged to his employer.
- He was restricted from contacting victims or any minor child that is not his biological child.
- Ackerman was not allowed to leave the Johannesburg metropolitan area.
- He was restrained from changing his verified address.
Bail conditions contravened
After prosecutor advocate Valencia Dube presented the court with information that pointed to Ackerman trying to evade trial and get his hands on a firearm to allegedly "tie up loose ends" and kill himself, she then turned to the bail conditions he is said to have contravened.
Dube said Ackerman had even contravened the bail conditions on his own version, which was that he was not on the lam, but moved to East Lynne in Pretoria with a friend because rent was a lot cheaper.
This was in direct contravention of at least two of his bail conditions.
Ackerman also conceded he had a smartphone - another contravention.
He disputed this, claiming his bail conditions had been amended in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court.
Ackerman could not tell the court exactly when the bail conditions were allegedly amended but said it could have been after the case was transferred to the High Court.
READ | Alleged child sex ring mastermind wanted a gun to take his own life, court told
He also told the court he had been given a copy of the amended bail conditions which he gave to the Sandringham police station. He later changed this version and said the document was given to the Fairlands police station.
In cross-examination, Dube said after Ackerman was granted bail, the case was postponed to 10 August 2021 and on that date, she personally appeared in the magistrate's court where the case was indicted to the High Court.
Dube showed according to the charge sheet, Ackerman had not appeared in the magistrate's court again after 10 August and said there was no record of the bail conditions being amended.
Ackerman maintained his advocate at the time had brought an application to amend the bail conditions.
Cloak and dagger
His former advocate - Gift Chone who was traced and connected to the court via a WhatsApp call - testified they had brought an application to have the bail conditions amended.
Chone, who admitted to not remembering the exact details, said they had approached the magistrate's court with the application, which he said was heard either in September or October last year.
He added on the day of the application, the charge sheet was not available, so a duplicate was drawn up.Chone recalled these amendments were made:
- Ackerman only had to report to the police station on Sunday and Monday every week.
- He was allowed access to social media.
- Changes in where Ackerman may live and move in around in Gauteng.
The court also heard from Chone that he was in contact with the investigating officer at the time.
But Warrant Officer Hendrick du Plessis told the court he was unaware of any application to have bail conditions amended and if such an application was brought to court, he would have been notified.
Chone could also not give the name of the prosecutor who was present in court when the application was made.
Dube questioned how any prosecutor would have been in a position to handle the application, when they were not in possession of the docket or the facts of the case.
READ | 'Missing' alleged child sex ring kingpin Gerhard Ackerman re-arrested at shopping centre
She also charged because the application to amend the bail conditions took place after the case was indicted to the High Court, she would have been the prosecutor to contact as she had the docket.
Despite this, Dube said she was not informed of the alleged application and nor was the investigating officer, so how exactly could it have taken place?
In addition, if Ackerman's bail conditions were amended in the lower court, why did he also ask the High Court to relax some of his conditions? His request was refused.
Judge Ismail Mohamed asked that documentation relating to the alleged amendment of bail conditions be sent to the court and postponed the case to Wednesday.
The court will have to decide whether it accepts Ackerman's explanation and evidence, and if so, whether to allow him back on bail or not.