Criminal justice system fails victim once again after further delay in case

AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit conveys its dismay with the unnecessary and avoidable delay in the case against Gerald Hattingh, a magistrate in the Belville area.

The matter was postponed in the Belville Magistrate’s Court until 25 November 2020 after it was set down for hearing yesterday. The reason for the postponement is that the presiding officer recused himself as he is acquainted with the accused. Although the magistrate acted judiciously the situation was avoidable.

This case has been dragging on for almost a decade and would have finally started yesterday. AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit got involved in the case in 2019 on behalf of Verna Cloete, the plaintiff, after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) initially declined to prosecute. The NPA, however, made an about-turn after the Unit got involved and decided to prosecute Hattingh on a charge of reckless and negligent driving. The incident took place in 2011 already.

The Private Prosecution Unit was established to deal with those matters where individuals are sheltered from prosecution because of political or societal affiliations.

In a conversation with the plaintiff this morning the prosecutor indicated that the NPA is also disappointed that the trial could not proceed yesterday. However, no-one has as of yet explained why a magistrate that was suitable to oversee the trial, was not arranged for trial.

According to Adv. Phyllis Vorster, Prosecutor at the Private Prosecution Unit, this case is a telling example of why people are losing faith in the criminal justice system.

“Firstly, it took the NPA almost a decade to institute prosecution despite a prima facie case against the accused. Secondly, the NPA failed to give any feedback to the plaintiff until the Private Prosecution Unit got involved and they also argued that they had lost the docket, of which we had to provide them with a copy,” says Vorster.

“Lastly, the presiding officer should have recused himself from the case at Hattingh’s previous appearance – not after witnesses had already been subpoenaed to appear and the plaintiff had the hope that the case would finally start. It is inexcusable that the case was further delayed because of an ‘administrative oversight’.”

  • See the link to the previous media statement here.

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