Let no innocent man suffer

Garry Hertzberg, practising attorney at Dewey Hertzberg Levy and host of the Laws of Life with Garry Hertzberg on Cliffcentral.com

In the news we have two high-profile bail applications, one is Elvis Ramosebudi, accused of plotting to assassinate the President and some other high-profile names, and the other is the two accused in the Coligny murder. All of the accused have been granted bail – R3 000 in the case of Elvis, and in the case of the Pieter Doorewaard and Philip Schutte, the Coligny Magistrates’ Court granted bail of R5 000 each.

There has been a public outcry about these people being released on bail.

Why was bail granted in these cases? One is accused of a plot akin to treason and the other two are accused of brutally murdering a teenager for stealing sunflowers.

As infuriating as it is, especially in the face of overwhelming evidence, we all know that the law provides that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Even if the accusation is serious does not mean that an accused should remain behind bars for months, if not years, while awaiting trial.

Detention or imprisonment is a very major infringement on your human rights as given by our Constitution. As upsetting as it is that a person, who is believed to have committed a heinous act, should be released until he is convicted and sentenced, it is inconsistent with the law to hold him in prison.

The Criminal Procedure Act does allow for the denial of bail in certain circumstances. An accused who is shown to be likely to evade the trial or attempt to influence witnesses or tamper with evidence, cannot be granted bail.

At the bail application, the court will consider anything that shows this, such as verbal threats, past conduct of the accused, their community ties and family connections and so on. One of the factors that is considered is the willingness of the accused to cooperate with the investigation.

In the Coligny case, the two men came to the police and turned themselves in, and the court basically said that it was unlikely the two men would try and run off to evade justice.

In the assassination case, the court again concluded that it was in the interest of justice to release the accused on bail saying that Ramosebudi’s presentation of his plot plans was ‘very immature’ and concluded that he is not a real threat to anyone.

To force an accused to spend time in jail before they are even given a trial would be a violation of human rights. There are, in fact, some awaiting-trial prisoners who could not afford their bail.

Over 40 000 awaiting-trial prisoners, who were either denied bail or could not afford it, were in custody in 2015 and some of these will be found innocent ultimately.

Do you believe in the principle ‘It is better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer’? Tell us on our Facebook page.

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City Reporter

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