Justice delayed is justice denied.
I recently came upon this report on the US news website OZY:
“Vernon Madison has suffered multiple strokes that have left him blind, with dead brain tissue and urinary incontinence, and unable to walk independently or remember the crime that put him on death row three decades ago. In October, the US Supreme Court was to consider whether the state of Alabama can legally kill Madison – who murdered a police officer in 1985 – despite the degenerative medical condition that has robbed him of the ability to understand the circumstances of his execution.
The case tackles evolving standards of decency and the US Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.”
Surely the real inhumanity lies less in executing a man suffering from senile dementia than in the relentless torture of having kept him, anyone, detained on death row for 30 years?
Back home, a criminal case Noseweek reported on in March 2005, (both accused had been arrested two years earlier) is still on trial in the South Gauteng High Court – with the end not yet in sight. Whether the accused are guilty or not, when a criminal prosecution has been in process for 16 years, isn’t it time to question the morality, the sanity of it all? Apart from questioning the competence of the prosecution, what about the cost?
On 12 December 2002 various SARS officials and major tax offenders that had struck deals with SARS signed affidavits in support of charges to be laid against Gary Porritt, the main man behind a company called Tigon. Anyone remember it?
Porritt was arrested in Pietermaritzburg on 14 December 2002. The only reason given was a reference to contraventions of the Income Tax Act. Porritt was granted R1 million bail.
Over the next two-and-a-half years the State was granted 10 postponements as their investigations were incomplete. Only after finally being ordered by the court to produce an indictment, did they do so on 29 July 2005. The indictment listed 3,160 main counts and 3,254 alternative counts. Of these, the only counts relating to tax were 80 alternative counts. But the entire prosecution has been driven by SARS ever since.
On 12 March 2003 Sue Bennett, Porritt’s partner was also arrested.
In the following month various companies associated with Tigon were put into liquidation or under judicial management by SARS.
March 2005: Seven different locations were raided. Hundreds of thousands of documents and electronic storage devices were seized. The State took another two-and-a-half years to compile an inventory of documents seized.
April 2005: Magistrate told the high court trial would begin in January 2006. (It did not.)
April 2007: State finally provides Bennett with an electronic copy of the case dossier against her. The index lists 530,594 documents.
June 2007: State aborts Durban case against Porritt, withdrawing all charges. Trial in Johannesburg still to proceed.
May 2008: Porritt receives paper copy of only portion of the case docket against him (13 months after judge ordered State to produce it.)
The years 2009 and 2010 were occupied with court applications to compel the State/SARS to produce documents and with attempts to obtain legal aid to employ Defence counsel adequately qualified for the case.
September 2010: Bennett given emergency heart-bypass requiring 12-week recuperation.
2011–2015: more of the same. Much dirty dealing by the prosecution, determined to nail the accused. The defendants’ (inadequate) legal aid is withdrawn.
27 July 2015: State issues warrants for Porritt and Bennett to appear for resumption of the case, now before Judge BS Spilg.
An unsuccessful application by the defendants for a permanent stay of prosecution was heard on 5 December 2015.
Argument was only concluded on 25 March 2016 and the accused only got to formally plead to the charges against them on 7 July that year.
2017: Trial continues on and off, with Bennett taking short periods off on medical advice when high stress levels exacerbate her heart condition.
June 2017: Porritt starts suffering blackouts; Judge Spilg accuses him of shamming. When he fails to appear at court as he is in hospital undergoing tests, the judge orders his arrest (in hospital) and cancels his bail; Porritt has been in detention at Johannesburg Central prison ever since, being brought to court each day in the early hours by crowded prison transport. He is having to prepare his defence overnight in a cell which he shares with up to 47 other inmates. He stores his court files under his bed.
The head of cardiology at Baragwanath Hospital has since diagnosed Porritt as suffering from paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Judge Spilg says he is unable to consider new medical evidence.
Porritt is currently still cross-examining the first prosecution witness.
A date is yet to be set for an appeal against Spilg’s incarceration order, to be heard by a full bench of the Gauteng High Court.
You thought we have a world-class judicial system? Think again.
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