Undercover operation ‘justified’, court hears

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IOL Esmerald Bailey done CAPE ARGUS Suspended Hawks captain Esmerald Bailey Picture: Jason Boud

Cape Town - Suspended Hawks captain Esmerald Bailey was in tears in the dock in the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court in Bellville when magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg rejected her defence attorney’s argument that her arrest followed an illegal sting operation.

Sonnenberg was handing down judgment in a trial within a trial held to determine the validity of a trap set to uncover the illegal sale of police uniforms and ammunition more than three years ago.

Bailey is accused of having sold police uniforms and ammunition, and faces nine charges including corruption, the illegal possession of ammunition, the possession or use of drugs and defeating the ends of justice.

The undercover operation that led to Bailey’s arrest took place at the Palm Springs apartment complex in Brooklyn, where she lived.

A witness earlier testified that an undercover officer had acted as the buyer and handed over R4 500 for various items of police gear.

William Booth, for Bailey, objected to the police trap and wanted all evidence obtained as a result of the trap and undercover operation be excluded because the operation was invalid.

Booth questioned procedures and the validity of a telephonic instruction rather than getting written authorisation.

He argued that no evidence was presented as to whether the directorate of public prosecutions or attorney-general’s guidelines were followed and that no written authority was obtained prior to the trap.

The written authority had been issued after the trap was set, he said.

In papers before the court, prosecutor Xolile Jonas argued that nowhere in the Criminal Procedure Act was it stipulated that the office of the attorney-general should provide reasons for its discretion to grant authority to conduct a trap.

Sonnenberg found that the directorate of public prosecutions’s guidelines had been followed, that the authorisation granted had been valid, that the commission of the trap had led to the exposure of a serious crime and that no one’s constitutional rights had been violated.

She added that the crimes with which Bailey was charged were of such a serious nature that special measures were needed to uncover them.

“The setting of the trap was justified,” she said. “It is the court’s finding that the evidence from this trap is admissible.”

Booth requested time to consult his client.

The State intends to call about 12 witnesses.

The trial continues in October.

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Cape Argus

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