Media wants access to NPA hearing

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IOL news july 19  PN breytenbach INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS Glynnis Breytenbach at the Labour Court in Joburg to fight her suspension. Photo: Bongiwe Mchunu

Pretoria - Suspended senior prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach has supported applications by the print and broadcast media for access to her disciplinary hearing.

Media 24, Avusa Media and M-Net launched an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria on Friday for access to Breytenbach's disciplinary hearing, which is set to resume on Monday.

It was brought after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) decided that the media would not even be allowed inside its building, let alone into Breytenbach's disciplinary hearing.

This, despite a ruling by disciplinary hearing chairman Barry Madolo, allowing the print media access.

The NPA said Madolo, who has since recused himself from the hearing, had no authority to make such a decision and that the decision was “irrational”.

The National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) is opposing the application on the grounds that disciplinary hearings are private affairs and that the presence of the media might intimidate witnesses.

At the same time, the NDPP launched an urgent application to review and set aside Madolo's decision.

Counsel for Media 24, Anthony Stein, argued that the media had a right to access the hearing on the basis of the chairman's ruling and an undertaking by the state attorney that the NPA would abide by this ruling until it was set aside.

The NPA, in turn, claimed that the senior state attorney who gave the undertaking had acted without instructions.

Stein argued that hearing raised issues of critical public and constitutional importance.

He said the issues had already received wide media coverage and had given rise to a substantial amount of speculation regarding the underlying reasons for the disciplinary charges.

As such, the public had a right to know and understand the manner in which the NPA and the defence dealt with these issues, he said.

Breytenbach herself accepted that there was a public interest in allowing the media access to the proceedings, said Stein.

Counsel for M-Net, Kate Hofmeyr, said the credibility of the NPA was an issue of grave public concern at the moment.

She said closing the doors to the public would only raise speculation about the credibility of the NPA.

Judge Ronel Tolmay is expected to hand down judgment at 8.30am on Monday.

Breytenbach was suspended on April 30, apparently for conduct related to cases allocated to her.

She submitted in papers before the Labour Court in Johannesburg that she was suspended as regional head of the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit because she insisted on investigating fraud and corruption charges against former police intelligence head Lt-Gen Richard Mdluli.

The NPA has denied her claims, insisting that Breytenbach was suspended because of alleged misconduct in a mining rights case and interference in investigations relating to her conduct.

The Labour Court earlier this week turned down Breytenbach's application to have her suspension overturned. - Sapa


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