It is disturbing, the quest for such trial. The notion of an open trial has acquired a new meaning, with modern methods of communication making open justice inevitable, Judge Siraj Desai said in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.
This was in response to the State and Henri Van Breda appealing against his decision to allow Media livestream the triple murder accused trial.
“Aren’t we trying to delay the inevitable?” he asked Hilton Epstein, SC, for the State.
According to Epstein, allowing the broadcast would affect the administration of justice.
He also pointed out in the application that there was a possibility that the “aspiration of some witnesses to ‘celebrity’ status may lead to unreliable or misleading testimony”.
The State said Desai failed to recognise that the adverse effects of broadcasting may not only be the intimidation of witnesses, but the possibility that counsel may grandstand, tailoring their arguments to the court of public opinion.
Francois van Zyl, SC, for Van Breda, said allowing the application may inhibit those in the witness box.
“It’s not the microphones or the camera – it’s the knowledge that they are being televised,” he argued.
Van Breda will go on trial on April 24, facing three counts of murder, one of attempted murder, and one of obstructing the course of justice.
His parents, Martin, 54, and Teresa, 55, and his brother Rudi, 22, were axed to death in their home on the luxury De Zalze golf estate in Stellenbosch in the early hours of Tuesday, January 27, 2015.
He handed himself to police in June and was granted bail of R100 000 on June 14.
Marli, 18, survived the attack, but sustained serious brain injuries and suffered amnesia.
In his reasons, delivered on Tuesday, Desai said that, while the courts had a duty to ensure Van Breda’s trial was conducted fairly and that the interests of the witnesses and processes were protected, the Constitution stipulated that his right was a fair public trial in which the rights of the media and the public were also respected.
The State said it would approach the Constitutional Court with its appeal.