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Pretoria - Former Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride was victimised because he made allegations against the Organised Crime Unit, the High Court in Pretoria heard on Thursday.
Judges Cynthia Pretorius and Lettie Malopa reserved judgment in McBride's appeal against his conviction on charges of drunk driving and attempting to obstruct the course of justice as well as his five-year jail sentence.
A Pretoria regional magistrate in September 2011 sentenced McBride to two years imprisonment for driving under the influence of alcohol and an effective three years imprisonment for attempting to obstruct the course of justice.
McBride was charged after crashing his official car on the R511 road following a Christmas party in 2006.
Guido Penzhorn, SC, for McBride, said not a single State witness against his client had been credible.
He contended the State had not proved his client's guilt on either of the charges and that McBridge had not had fair trial.
He said the magistrate's findings were legally unsound, not borne out by the evidence and on the facts of the case disturbingly inappropriate.
It was McBride's case that the three former colleagues who testified that he had been drunk that night had been coerced and intimidated by the police into making incriminating statements or changing statements which infringed his right to a fair trial.
The three men initially made statements supporting McBride's version that he had not been drunk and did not leave the scene of the accident to evade justice.
All three made a dramatic about-turn on the same day five months later.
They alleged McBride had been heavily under the influence of alcohol and systematically set about covering this up with their assistance.
Penzhorn said it was significant that their about-turn came at a time when the three were suspects in an attempted murder matter by members of the Organised Crime Unit (OCU) in respect of which they were offered indemnity in return for making statements against McBride.
He said later statements by the accused revealed the direct and unusual involvement of very senior police officials, including a Deputy National Commissioner, in a drunk driving case.
All of this was against the background of McBride having made serious allegations against the very unit that was tasked with investigating the drunk driving case against him.
He said it was suspicious that the investigation against the OCU had soon been transformed into an investigation against the Ekurhuleni metro department (EMPD).
“There is a clear connection between implicating the accused in this matter and being offered indemnity in the (attempted murder) matter, which is moreover a far more serious case against them than this one.
“...There is no logical reason why the three witnesses would have mentioned the drunken driving matter to the OCU who had nothing to do with the drunken driving investigation.
“The only reasonable inference is that they used the drunken driving matter as leverage to protect themselves,” he said.
He singled out General Godfrey Lebeya, the national divisional commissioner of the Priority Crime Investigations unit, for particular criticism, saying Lebeya had effectively admitted that the OCU set about finding as much dirt as possible against the EMDP.
“...Lebeya was appointed to investigate a series of serious complaints made against his own unit by the accused.
“He, together with members of his unit, deflected the attention from the complaints against themselves by identifying and pursuing complaints against the accused,” he said.
Penzhorn described evidence about the amount of alcohol McBride was alleged to have consumed as contradictory and glaringly improbable.
He also severely criticised the evidence of the medical doctor who saw McBride on the night of the incident and described the metro chief as overly friendly with a pronounced gait and the smell of alcohol on his breath.
Penzhorn argued that the magistrate should have rejected the evidence and accepted the evidence of a defence witness who said all of McBride's symptoms could be ascribed to a head injury and hypoglycaemia caused by incorrect diabetes medication.
Prosecutor Petronel du Plessis argued that the court could not look at the evidence in isolation but should look at all of the evidence cumulatively, which she said proved McBride's guilt.
She said apart from McBride's colleagues, witnesses on the scene and the doctor who saw McBride that night all described him as appearing drunk.
She stressed that McBride's actions after the accident were suspicious because he did not wait for an ambulance or go to a hospital, but drove all the way to Garankuwa to find a doctor. - Sapa