Court warns bridge death lawyer

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Copy of NM Bashin3 INLSA Back in the dock, lawyer Koobashan Naicker will be sentenced in February. He pleaded guilty last year to eight charges, including three of culpable homicide and one of reckless driving. Photo: Gcina Ndwalane

Durban - Disbarred lawyer Koobashan Naicker, convicted of killing three people in a multiple car pile-up on Durban’s Athlone Bridge, has been given a final four weeks to prepare reports for sentencing, with the magistrate warning that the sentencing process will go ahead then, whether he is ready or not.

“You are convicted and are walking around without being sentenced. This could start looking like a mockery,” said Durban Regional Court magistrate Blessing Msani.

Naicker pleaded guilty in October last year to eight charges including three of culpable homicide and one of reckless driving relating to the deaths of mother and son Gillian and Connor Bell and dance teacher Carmen Hunter in March 2011.

He asked for an adjournment until Thursday to prepare pre-sentence reports, including one from a criminologist.

But these were still not ready, his advocate Christo van Schalkwyk said on Thursday.

And, while the magistrate said he took a “dim view” of this, he noted that prosecutor advocate Mahen Naidu had “frankly conceded” he too did not have the reports, that it was not all the fault of the defence and it would be completely impractical to proceed.

Giving Naicker until the end of February to put this right, he said this would be the final adjournment and warned: “I will do it without the reports if you push me into that situation.”

Naicker, in his guilty plea, admitted he had been drinking alcohol and taking drugs before he caused the crash, but denied that he was “under the influence”.

Instead, he said he ought to have realised the combination of alcohol and cocaine, together with his medical condition of a detached retina, would have resulted in gross negligent and reckless driving.

On Thurday, in an affidavit in support of his application for an adjournment, he claimed he had been in and out of hospital since November last year.

He said this was when his medical condition – and in particular his eyesight – had deteriorated.

He said he had also had blood tests, the results indicating he suffered from lupus, an incurable and debilitating disease which, if confirmed by further tests, could impact on sentencing and his prospects of going to jail.

He said he had also not been given the probation officer’s report which needed to be studied by criminologist Vicci van der Westhuizen.

He apologised to the court, the prosecution and the families of the victims for the delays.

“I am acutely aware of the fact the families wish to have closure in the matter and that every appearance for them, and for myself, is a traumatic experience in itself,” he said.

Relatives who attended court eager to see the sentencing process begin, left the court dejected.

“Yet again,” sighed Audrey Bell, granny of Connor, who has been in court every time Naicker has appeared since his arrest in April 2011.

“But it certainly seems that this time the magistrate has also had enough,” she said.

Her daughter, Sharlene Versfeld, said it hurt to see her mother so emotionally damaged at a time in her life when she should be enjoying her grandchildren, and to see her brother, Jason (husband of Gillian and father of Connor) “just trying to hold it all together”.

Caro Smit, of South Africans Against Drunk Driving, said she believed Naicker should get at least 18 years in jail, “six for each victim”, which was provided for in the National Road Traffic Act.

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The Mercury



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