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WALK through the door of a court in session and you enter another world where a certain polite formality of dress and language and behaviour is expected, even if women don’t have to wear hats any more.
So to read of a magistrate and an accused slagging each other off in crude language comes as a shock. Even more so when it’s solemnly transcribed from the court records in a judicial decision, as happened this week in Northern Cape. The Kimberley judges were dealing with certain peculiar events in the Upington Magistrate’s Court two years ago.
The parties dispute exactly what was said, and by whom, while the official transcript simply refers to a “loud voice” in the background. The magistrate, however, noted in her record book that the accused, Trevino Bock, swore at her in a way that was “vieslik (disgusting)”, which prompted her to recuse herself.
But she was back in court the next day with the same accused, and engaged in a heated exchange with him about what had happened.
In her record book, she noted sentencing him to six months, adding a list of what the accused had said: “Jy’s gek; AWB! Gee my nog; jy’s mal; ma se bloedk*** (You’re crazy, AWB! Give me more; you’re crazy, mother of a bloody c***)”.
She added that the case would be sent on review, that the accused continued to swear, but that when he was recalled to the court he refused to return.
The situation described in her notes differed from what emerged in a transcript of the record.
The magistrate told Bock that swearing at her slighted the court.
Everyone present had heard what he had said, even the magistrate of another court. She listed the language used – “Jou wit hoer. Jou ‘p***’, jou ‘k*** (You white whore. Your p***, your c***)”, notes the transcript.
Bock claimed “other people” who were “inside” swore, and not him. She said he behaved so wildly that she ordered him to be taken to the cells, as his noise was disrupting other courts.
She also objected to his not using the polite form of address:
“In die eerste plek het U vir my gejy en gejou (in the first place you taunted me).”
When she gave him a six-month sentence, Bock commented: “Ah, jy is mal (You are crazy).”
The magistrate shot back: “Jy is mal – stapelgek (You’re crazy – raving mad).”
Bock returned the compliment, saying it was she who was crazy. At that point, the prosecutor interjected, saying the magistrate should have given Bock an additional six months on top of the first sentence.
She liked the idea and said she thought it best to call him back so she could “give him another”.
According to the transcript, Bock reacted strongly to the additional sentence, saying, “Jou ma se… inaudible).”
The judges said it would be a further travesty of justice if Bock were to be re-charged.
So there you have it – a magistrate who lost control of a situation in court, and who is now suspended.
But it does mean that if he gets himself an even vaguely capable attorney, Bock could end up with a nice little Christmas bonus by way of a damages claim.