Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Judge on Corruption and Other Charges

Crooked judge causes new trials

Pretoria - Alleged criminals who had their cases heard by Louis Trichardt Magistrate Ronnie Rambau will be tried afresh after Rambau's arrest on corruption and other charges.

The North Gauteng High Court on Wednesday set aside the proceedings in the four partly-heard criminal trials before Rambau, a senior magistrate for Limpopo.

Judges Eberhard Bertelsmann and Roger Claassen referred the four matters back to the regional court to start afresh before another magistrate.

The four accused face charges ranging from robbery with aggravating circumstances to possession of firearms and corruption.

The judges said the cases must be given preference on the trial roll.

Where possible, the existing record of the earlier proceedings should be sought to be admitted as evidence that was common cause.

Rambau was arrested in February 2009 along with district prosecutor Estene Willemse and Musina attorney TE Lubisi on charges of corruption.

They allegedly accepted bribes to influence the outcome of certain court cases. The three have to appear in court again next month.

Conspiracy to commit murder

Rambau, presently on suspension, was arrested again in January this year on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

This came after an alleged hit list, containing the names of persons involved in his corruption trial, was handed to the police.

The list included the names of two magistrates and three state prosecutors.

Rambau was released on R50 000 bail and will have to appear in the Giyani Magistrate's Court again on April 25 in connection with that case.

The judges said Rambau was obviously unable to continue in the high office he held until the criminal charges against him had been finally disposed of.

Should he be convicted and the conviction upheld on appeal, Rambau would have to vacate his office.

Even if he was acquitted, he could still face the possibility of disciplinary charges and eventual removal from his position.

"It may well be argued that the mere fact that the trial magistrate in these .. matters has been arrested on charges as grave and as incompatible with holding judicial office as these, may be reason enough to vacate the bench to prevent further harm being done to the reputation of the judiciary at all levels," the judges contended.

"Whatever the eventual outcome, it is clear that Mr Rambau will be unavailable for the foreseeable future to preside over the ... trials."

The trials had been dragging along for several years, and it was imperative that finality be reached as soon as possible.

Though setting aside the trials would prejudice the accused and their right to a speedy trial, their position would be worse if they had to wait for Rambau's return to the bench, the judges concluded.

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