Durban - Any hope that Durban North drug dealer Tracey-Anne Pretorius and her four accomplices had of spending Christmas and new year at home were dashed on Wednesday when bail was refused.
Judge Rishi Seegobin said in a reserved judgment, handed down in the Pietermaritz-burg High Court on Wednesday, that their release was not in the interests of justice.
Pretorius, a mother of two, her boyfriend, Tyronne Hofland, and friend Travis Bailey are all serving eight years. Bonzile Chutshela and Senzela Dlezi are serving five years.
They have been in Westville Prison since early May after being convicted of drug dealing following a raid on Pretorius’s home, where 44kg of dagga was found under cultivation in her basement.
The five wanted bail pending the outcome of their appeal against sentence and a review application, which will both be heard on March 6.
The latter application was to have the entire court proceedings set aside, alleging that the magistrate, Najma Kathrada, had committed an irregularity during the sentencing stage by ordering that conversations of the legal representatives during adjournments be transcribed.
They alleged that Kathrada had listened to the conversations and her conduct resulted in a serious miscarriage of justice. They also contended she was biased.
The judge said that even if it was found the irregularities resulted in a miscarriage of justice, it was highly unlikely the entire proceedings would be set aside and the trial ordered to restart in front of a different magistrate.
In all likelihood, if successful, only the sentences would be set aside, which the review court could reconsider.
Judge Seegobin said the essential issue was if it was in the interests of justice to permit their release.
“The accused have been convicted of serious offences. The proliferation of drugs and the prevalence of drug-related offences are a matter of grave concern. The evidence showed they were cultivating a ‘superior’ quality of dagga by creating a sophisticated greenhouse effect in a residential suburb.”
The judge said drugs not only destroyed innocent lives, but also the fabric of society, which was why courts were imposing robust sentences. He did not believe the sentences were shockingly inappropriate or disproportionate.
Even if they were set aside, it did not mean a totally non-custodial one would be imposed.
As much as they previously abided by their bail conditions, things had now changed be-cause of the sentences, which meant the risk of fleeing was greater now.
The judge also said the applications were to be heard in less than three months.
They wanted bail to pursue employment opportunities, which was hardly a cogent reason for the granting of bail, particularly having regard to the serious nature of the offence, he said.