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ConCourt dismisses case by alleged gold smugglers who claim was judge was biased

In its dismissal of the case, the Constitutional Court concluded that the decision was largely due to the unreasonable conduct of the applicants during the trial.

Picture: SAPS.

JOHANNESBURG -The Constitutional Court has dismissed a case by alleged gold and platinum smugglers who claimed they were prejudiced against by a biased judge following lengthy postponements of their court matter as they could not afford legal representation of their choosing.

The applicants approached the Apex Court claiming their right to a fair trial was infringed upon as the court did not properly evaluate the evidence, including that the consequences of Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Act were not explained to them.

The section in question empowers the court to effect many orders, including one to close the defence case, where it has, upon an inquiry found that an unreasonable delay or prejudice in proceedings may result.

In this case, the defendants’ case was closed by the state following several delays between 2008 and 2014.

In its dismissal of the case, the Constitutional Court concluded that the decision was largely due to the unreasonable conduct of the applicants during the trial.

The Apex Court held that the applicants had no right to have an ongoing trial postponed for a lengthy period to allow them time to access their preferred legal representative.

On whether the judge in the matter was biased as the applicants claimed, the justices of the highest court in the land unanimously agreed that the trial judge had shown ability to consider the facts and objectively analyse them.

The court also affirmed the decisions of lower courts which held that the provision which led to the closure of the case against the applicants and its consequences were fully explained to them.

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