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Pretoria - The alleged theft of a R149.99 bottle of whisky has caused a months-long headache for the accused – after telling his story to the court, the court building burned down destroying all the evidence, leading to more than a dozen postponements.
Relentless prosecutors were determined to proceed with the case and have the record of the proceedings reconstructed – at great cost to taxpayers.
Donald Ramaite sat through no less than 15 postponements until the fed-up magistrate decided enough was enough.
He said the State should throw in the towel as it was impossible to reconstruct the record.
The Polokwane magistrate referred the matter to the Pretoria High Court for review and possible setting aside of the proceedings against Ramaite.
Judge George Webster was told that the accused allegedly stole the whisky in June last year.
He was arrested two days later.
The State presented its evidence and the accused testified.
The matter was then postponed for the calling of a defence witness, but the court building burnt down before the matter could be finalised. The record was destroyed in the fire and so were the magistrate’s notes.
The matter first served before Judge Bill Prinsloo, when it was referred to the high court. He referred it to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for comment.
The office of the DPP said it was doubtful that the record could ever be reconstructed.
Judge Webster, who took over the matter, agreed. He said the only remaining issue was whether the matter should be heard afresh, before another magistrate.
The DPP was of the opinion that the trial should start over, but Judge Webster disagreed and ordered that the proceedings be set aside.
Pretoria News Weekend