S v DIBAKOANE 2016 (1) SACR 532 (GP)
Trial — Postponement of — When to be granted — Postponement for purpose of obtaining legal representation — Trial previously postponed for same purpose — Record showing accused not wanting trial to proceed and seeking to frustrate it — Refusal of postponement in circumstances not misdirection.
The appellant appealed against his convictions in a regional magistrates’ court on a number of counts, including robbery with aggravating circumstances and kidnapping, as well as the sentences imposed in respect of those convictions. He contended that he had not had a fair trial as the magistrate had refused to grant him a postponement in order to obtain a legal representative of his own choice. The record of the proceedings in the court a quo revealed that there had been a number of postponements for the appellant to obtain legal representation. On one occasion he stated that he was not in a position to proceed with the trial as he had only recently received the contents of the docket and that he did not understand the documents as they were in Afrikaans — he had in fact had eight days in which to read said documents. The magistrate stood the matter down so that the interpreter could assist the appellant by translating the documents into English for him, which was done in writing. The matter then stood down until the next day when the appellant was asked to plead. He refused to plead in the absence of his attorney despite having indicated the previous day that he would conduct his own defence. The trial then commenced but the appellant failed to participate in the proceedings. He was duly convicted and sentenced.
Held, that it was self-evident that when one read the record the appellant was not desirous that the matter should proceed and that he sought to frustrate the commencement of the trial at all costs.
Held, further, that the right to legal representation could not be a right which would extend to matters being postponed indefinitely in order for an accused to raise funds to obtain representation.
Held, further, that the appellant had no one other to blame than himself for his predicament: he was informed of legal aid but had declined it. The appeal was accordingly dismissed.