McBride denied right to prepare for trial, court told

The state has deliberately denied former Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride the right to prepare for his drunken-driving trial, the Pretoria Regional Court heard on Monday.

Advocate Guido Penzhorn, SC, acting for McBride, said the state had withheld documents, including statements from witnesses, relating to the case that were crucial for the defence to prepare for trial.

“It was not an oversight ... but deliberate,” he told magistrate Peet Johnson.

“At the end of the day not only do these statements corroborate the defence’s plea ... they establish the motive of the [section] 204 witnesses.”

According to section 204 of the Criminal Procedure Act, a person guilty of criminal conduct may testify on behalf of the state in exchange for indemnity from prosecution.

Penzhorn told the court he wanted to cross-examine three state witnesses, who changed their statements, to determine in court their credibility and motives for making the changes.

The three former Ekurhuleni metro police officials, Itumeleng Koko, Patrick Johnson and Stanley Sagathevan, initially made statements that McBride was not drunk when he was involved in an accident in December 2006 near Pretoria.
They later changed these statements.

They were granted immunity from prosecution as section 204 witnesses on other charges against them, and later testified in court that McBride was drunk.

The three were in the courthouse on Monday, but were not called to testify as the magistrate postponed the matter due to the heat in the room.

“It is impossible to work under these circumstances,” Johnson said, complaining the air-conditioning was not working as a result of fires in the court two weeks before.

“I have a headache because of this filthy air,” he said earlier, before halting proceedings.

The trial, which stalled two years prior over the missing documents, was expected to resume on March 23 next year.—Sapa

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