A “SHOTGUN '' trial in which the entire trial was completed on the same day saw the three year imprisonment sentence of a man accused of assaulting his wife overturned.
The trial was completed in one hour and 42 minutes, with the defense was conducting by a candidate attorney who is still under training.
The man, who is not identified to safeguard the identity of his wife, turned to the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg to have his conviction and sentence overturned.
He was sent directly to prison after the lower court had sentenced him to three years direct imprisonment. But the man complained to the high court that he had an unfair trial as the candidate attorney appointed to handle his case, simply had no experience to conduct his defence.
The husband earlier appeared in the Alexandra Magistrate's Court after his wife had alleged that he had assaulted her by hitting her head with his head and by hitting her with open hands all over the body.
The applicant pleaded not guilty to the charge and did not make a plea explanation. He was represented by a candidate attorney, in the employ of the Alexandra branch of the Legal Aid Board.
The State called only one witness to testify, the complainant and then closed its case. The applicant testified in his defence and called his father as a witness. He then closed his case.
Shortly afterwards he found himself convicted and in jail.
In asking for his immediate release as he had an unfair trial, the applicant argued that the “incompetent” representation of the candidate attorney had landed him in this position.
He also submitted that the magistrate presiding at the trial should have intervened to protect him from a potential miscarriage of justice.
The magistrate in turn said that she did not preside over the trial in an improper manner in any respect, that she was not misdirected in the exercise of her discretion in imposing sentence. She also denied that the applicant’s representation at the trial was not up to standard.
The applicant said while he had arranged prior to the trial for an attorney to represent him, he only met the candidate attorney assigned to his case, on the morning of the trial.
He said he asked the candidate attorney to request a postponement of the matter, so that the latter could prepare his case. The candidate attorney went to ask the prosecutor for a postponement, but the state refused this.
He was, however, given 20 minutes to consult with the candidate attorney.
According to the applicant, the candidate attorney never asked for a postponement in court. He also claimed that during the short trial, the candidate attorney was simply not capable of conducting his defence, which caused him to face three years in jail.
Acting Judge G Y Sidwell said the candidate attorney in his explanatory affidavit states that he is a candidate legal practitioner “who does not possess the adequate experience and is still under training and supervision... to get the necessary adequate experience”.
That he did not possess adequate experience to conduct an effective defence in this case is borne out by the record of the trial, the judge said.
He concluded that it was in the interest of justice to overturn the verdict and subsequent sentence. The judge ordered the immediate release of the applicant.