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Undercover sting on top cop valid: court

Cape Town - Evidence against a police officer obtained through a police under-cover operation is admissible, a Cape Town court ruled on Wednesday.

Magistrate Sabrina Sonnenberg dismissed an application brought by defence lawyer William Booth in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Bellville.

Former Hawks officer Esmerald Bailey is accused of selling police uniforms and ammunition. Picture: Cindy Waxa/Cape Times. Credit: inlsa

He wanted to have the evidence ruled illegally obtained and therefore inadmissible.

Captain Esmarelda Bailey is charged with corruption, defeating the ends of justice, the illegal possession of police firearms and ammunition, and the possession or use of drugs.

She was arrested in December 2011, in an under-cover operation authorised by the Western Cape directorate for public prosecutions.

The trap had been authorised on information that an unidentified person was offering police uniforms, including bullet-proof vests, for sale.

Prosecutor Jonas Xolile alleged that the individual identified during the under-cover operation was Bailey.

Wednesday's judgment brought to an end a protracted trial-within-a-trial, which interrupted the main trial.

Sonnenberg said Booth had sought to have the police trap itself declared illegal, on the grounds that the Western Cape DPP had authorised it with insufficient information to do so.

She said she had to determine whether the authorisation of the trap was in fact invalid and, if so, whether it had violated any of Bailey's constitutional rights, as contended by Booth.

One of Booth's grounds had been that the initial authorisation for the trap had been verbal, without written reasons. Sonnenberg said the authorisation itself was not legally required to be written.

She said the mere information that someone was selling police uniforms, firearms, and ammunition, was serious, and sufficient to justify an under-cover operation.

She ruled that prior authority to conduct the trap was not an “absolute” requirement. One of the purposes of police traps was crime-prevention.

She ruled that the DPP guidelines for an under-cover operation had been followed, that the authority for the trap was valid, that the operation did in fact uncover serious crime, and that the trap itself did not violate any of Bailey's constitutional rights.

The matter was postponed to October 14 to enable Booth to decide whether to take the ruling on appeal.

Sapa

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