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'Prison officials cannot destroy evidence’

A lawyer says prison officials had no right to delete images showing an inmate being assaulted.

Two warders at the Groenpunt Prison in Deneysville in the Free State were injured in a prison protest in which inmates set part of the facility on fire on 7 January, 2013. Picture: Supplied.

PRETORIA - The chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on correctional services at the weekend defended officials taking the law into their own hands by destroying evidence of journalists' alleged crimes.

The incident relates to reporters photographing Groenpunt Prison officials assaulting an offender, who later died.

Officials said maximum force had to be used after the prisoner attacked a warder.

Vincent Smith said the taking of pictures was in contravention of the National Key Points Act.

"I think we must condemn journalists breaking the law. Those who are guilty must, if they have broken the law, face the full might of the law."

But he went on to defend prison officials who deleted the very evidence of such a crime taking place, saying officials had the right to enforce the law.

Criminal lawyer Rude Krause said, "Had the officials of the Department of Correctional Services been of the view that an offence had been committed, there were most certainly not entitled to destroy the evidence.

Police spokesperson Thandi Mmambo said if they established the photos were in fact evidence of a crime being committed, the police would prosecute a case of defeating the ends of justice.

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