By Tracey Stewart, legal expert and counsel for Highbury Media
Western Cape High Court Judge Desai was intent not to delay criminal proceedings, despite the interjection of a media streaming decision that delayed the anticipated van Breda axe murder trial from starting earlier today. And while the criminal trial was set to start at 2:15 pm this afternoon, the day did not go as planned.
Here’s how it unfolded:
Shortly before 2:15 pm, a very quiet and apprehensive-looking Henri van Breda arrived at court dressed in a grey suit and tie. His legal team ushered him to the accused bench where he sat looking into the distance for the remainder of the proceedings.
The state prosecutor, Susan Galloway, was first to address the court and advised they wished to apply for a postponement. Galloway said the state believes the public should be exposed to the brutality of these crimes but have to consider how their witnesses feel about the media application. Given that an appeal is pending regarding the order Judge Desai made, Galloway asked for a postponement which would allow her an opportunity to consult with all of her witnesses on how they felt about the video recordings.
She further advised that the defence had also asked for a postponement and allowed Advocate Botha to address the court.
Advocate Botha confirmed his appearance on behalf of Henri Van Breda and informed the court that there were outstanding DNA reports, one which related to the murder weapon. He also informed the court that he had requested original photographs – or JPEG versions of the state’s photographs – because the state had only furnished his team with PDF versions.
Advocate Botha stressed to the court that his client wanted a chance to tell his version as he has been under the glare of the public and press for two years without being allowed to do so and without the court having all of the evidence, thus Advocate Botha could not advise his client that they proceed.
The first witness is the police officer who was first to arrive on the scene and Advocate Botha stressed that he could not cross-examine that witness without having all of the information requested.
Galloway confirmed they were busy obtaining the reports and would furnish JPEGs in due course but that the request had come in late and the person who took the photographs had been ill for some time.
Despite having warned legal teams earlier in the day that he was not going to take applications for postponements lightly, Judge Desai had no option but to grant the postponement as both the state and the defence were in agreement and this would allow for an appeal outcome on the Media Streaming Application. Judge Desai has postponed the matter to 24 April 2017.
Although proceedings seemed to have been delayed by the Media Streaming Application, the reality is that the parties were not ready to run the trial in any event and since receiving the Media Streaming Application, they had been forced to put preparation for the triple murder trial aside, to consider the Media Streaming Application.
Either way, it’s certainly going to be a trial to follow – whether it is streamed live to the general public or access is given through frantic word-for-word tweets by the media in court, everyone will be watching this space.
Photography Getty Images