Six convicted criminals have been released back to the streets because the attorney, who is now an acting magistrate, absconded from her duties as assessor due to the proceedings taking too long for her.
The six men had a string of charges including three of murder, each of which was sentenced to 18 years in jail.
The Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the charges against the men after they had only served a little over three years imprisonment.
Absconded the trail to accept a magistrate position
After the attorney, identified as Ms S Solomons, refused to return to the High Court until the end of their case the Magistrate’s Commission and Legal Practice Council investigated whether she was fit to serve as an officer.
Solomon, who was one of two assessors assisting the judge on the bench in the Western Cape High Court explained that she did not expect the trial to go on as long as it was and she was losing money as a practicing attorney by sitting on the bench.
She had also been offed a magistrate position and did not want to lose out on the opportunity which is why after seven months and 22 witnesses, she sent a sick note to the judge which stated that she had been booked off for three days due to anxiety.
The judge postponed the trial but when Solomons did not return they began to seek her whereabouts, which is when they discovered she was working as an acting magistrate at the Upington Magistrate’s Court.
After making contact with Solmons and receiving her explanation, it was decided that the trial would continue without her.
No fair trial
The six accused however appealed to the Supreme Court stating that Solomons absence denied them a fair trail.
In Justice Halima Salduiker’s appeal judgement he stated the importance of the assessors in a criminal trial and that the only exceptions were in illness and death and that any deviation would result in the proceedings being quashed.
Five court justices ruled the trial as irregular in law and the men were released.