TAXI driver Jacob Humphreys wants bail pending his bid to have his conviction and 20-year jail sentence overturned in the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).
Humphreys was granted leave to appeal in the SCA last week. Yesterday, his lawyers brought an urgent application in the Western Cape High Court to secure bail pending the outcome of the appeal.
Humphreys has been behind bars since February 28 when Judge Robert Henney sentenced him to an effective 20-year prison term.
Judge Henney found him guilty on 10 counts of murder – one for each of the children who died in the crash at Buttskop level crossing in Blackheath on August 25, 2010.
He was further convicted of four counts of attempted murder relating to the children who survived the accident.
That day, Humphreys had been driving the children to school when he overtook a row of cars waiting at the railway crossing and drove past a lowered half-boom. The taxi was hit by an oncoming train.
Humphreys is to appeal both his conviction and his sentence in the SCA.
In an affidavit, Humphreys said that previously he had been on bail while he awaited his sentencing, even after he’d been convicted.
Also, he had lived at the same home in Eerste River for 27 years and had been married for 32 years.
“I argue that my history in this case clearly shows that I do not pose a flight risk and I am advised that legal argument will be made on my behalf as to why I should be granted bail pending the completion of my appeal,” he said in his affidavit, which was written in Afrikaans, his home language.
Acting Judge Rob Stelzner, however, postponed the hearing for two weeks to allow the State to prepare for the matter and submit opposing papers to the court.
Earlier in yesterday’s proceedings, State advocate Pedro van Wyk applied for a postponement because Humph-reys’ application for bail had only come to the attention of his superiors earlier that morning.
The application had been sent to the State advocate who prosecuted Humphreys, Susan Galloway, on Monday but she had been away on a course and had not received it.
This raised the ire of Humphreys’ counsel, Johann Engelbrecht, SC, who described it as “grave, gross negligence” on the part of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“The note (sent to Galloway) clearly states that the application would be made on May 30, so it is immaterial that the notice was shoved in advocate Galloway’s pigeon hole,” he told the court.
Bail was always a matter of urgency, said Engelbrecht, and the notice should immediately have been brought to the attention of someone else who could deal with the matter.
Humphreys would now have to carry the costs of an extra court day.
However, both Engelbrecht and Van Wyk later agreed to a date, June 13, on which the matter would be heard.