A shortage of judges at the Western Cape High Court has led to the postponement of the trial of Mark Liefman and more than 10 other defendants.
- Liefman’s trial did not start as expected on Monday because a judge was not present to hear it.
- A second judge raised the alarm on Monday about a shortage of judges to hear the large number of cases awaiting trial.
- Liefman’s case has been postponed to 2024, instead of running from Monday through September.
The trial of Mark Liefman and more than 10 other defendants did not start as planned on Monday because the Western Cape Court did not have enough judges to hear it, said Judge Robert Heene.
“Today, we have to adjourn about 11 cases because there are no judges available,” Heaney said testily.
He was due to appear in another court for a civil suit and was worried that that too would be delayed.
The trial of doping smuggler Brian Weinstein in Constantia in 2017 was supposed to begin Monday and run through September.
All of the accused, with the exception of one patient, arrived ready for it.
Three of the accused were publicly murdered before they reached the trial stage.
William “Red” Stevens was shot and killed In Kraaifontein on 2 February 2021 Jason Mates was shot dead in Mitchell Plain on 5 March 2021 Anthony Aamer van der Watt and one other person were shot dead in Cape Town while driving between Pollsmoor Prison and Kraaifontein on 6 October 2022.
Some have taken plea bargains.
Former security company owner Matthew Brett of West Beach has been sentenced to 20 years in prison under a plea and sentencing agreement. Cheslyn Adams and Fabian Cobido, who drove the car the day Weinstein was killed, have each been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Among the remaining defendants were Jerome Boysen, Andre Node and Igor Rosol “The Russian”.
Showing a marked change in the wearing of the dock in the number of suits, jackets and tuxedos which were preferred to the traditional ‘athleisher’ attire chosen for the trials, Henney checked that they were all present and that their lawyers were also present.
Heaney said the best date he could give them for trial is July 22, 2024. With more than 30 witnesses, that could push the trial to 2025.
In other matters, there were similar long delays.
Heaney told them, “There are no judges available. We have 15 judges handling two listening devices. There are no judges available…”.
A man in one such case raised his hand and demanded bail, saying he had been in custody for six years and that he had a family who needed him.
“I understand, sir,” said Heaney, adding:
It’s a real embarrassment to us. We have more than 200 items in the list. We really do our best to handle this.
Other justices have also warned of cases being choked once they reach the Supreme Court.
Judge Nathan Erasmus repeatedly warned Naves Modak and his co-defendants to settle their outstanding legal representation issues as soon as possible because early trial dates are becoming hard to come by.
Erasmus said there had been talk of forming another department to deal with the number of cases.
Meanwhile, a new case has begun at Pollsmoor Prison Court, and a grand gang trial has been moved to Cape Town Regional Court.
In that case, counsel for one of the former defendants Anti-gang unit cop, Ashley Tapcher, He vowed to apply for Tapcher’s release pending trial due to the “unreasonable” delays keeping him in custody.
Part of the problem, Heaney said Monday, is that cases that can be heard in one of the county’s 60 regional courts are automatically referred to the Supreme Court, and civil cases are also handled by judges.
In a hushed voice, another defendant in another case said he had been in custody since 2021, and not only had he waited long in custody, but the legal aid lawyer had never visited him — “not once.” The legal aid attorney present said he would intervene.
Another man grabbed a folded piece of paper and said that the mother of his children had died, and his child needed ID to register to write her matriculation exams, but he was in custody, and she needed help with that.
An exasperated Heaney eventually said, “There is no point in having any more pre-trial trials in this court because nothing can be enforced. There are no judges to deal with it.”
The presiding judge, who also normally sits on cases, John Hlov, is currently suspended, with Judge Patricia Goliath serving in his stead.