Johannesburg - No criminal charges have been laid over the foiled assassination attempt on a controversial Benoni magistrate, allegedly by a man whose separate attempted murder case she is presiding over.

Two senior sources, one close to the police investigation and another an official at the Benoni Magistrate’s Court, confirmed on Thursday that magistrate Mitzi Schutte had been the target.

The suspected assassin was arrested on Tuesday inside the courtroom where he and another man were to appear before Schutte on two attempted murder charges and possession of an unlicensed firearm.

“No criminal charges were laid due to a lack of evidence,” the police source said.

He added that security around Schutte had been increased and that it was possible that charges could still be laid as the investigation was continuing.

“The motive can only come from trying to prevent the magistrate or intimidate the magistrate from hearing the case,” the source said.

Acting Benoni station commander Colonel Martin van Nieuwenhuizen said investigations were continuing. He declined to comment further.

Schutte has landed herself in hot water with the Magistrates Commission on at least three occasions for comments she has made while presiding over cases, including imploring a prosecutor not to ask stupid questions and telling a witness to stop their “verbal diarrhoea”.

Her conduct also contributed to an alleged car thief, Leon Smith – who was given a seven- year prison sentence by her – walking free after his successful Pretoria High Court appeal.

In her judgment overturning the sentence, Judge Cynthia Pretorius said Schutte had been downright rude towards the prosecution, the accused and the defence. She said it was evident that Smith did not receive a fair trial when he appeared before her.

Judge Pretorius cited verbatim various phrases from the trial record to prove her point that the magistrate had been rude. Schutte had asked if the prosecutor had “brought his thoughts” with him to court, telling him not to ask “stupid” questions.

She also asked the accused if he had suffered a brain freeze and told him there was a “point of stupidity which cannot be surpassed”.

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The Star