Cameras will intimidate Van Breda witnesses‚ lawyers tell judge in family murder trial


Cameras will intimidate Van Breda witnesses‚ lawyers tell judge in family murder trial

Nashira Davids | 2017-03-24 14:08:22.0

Triple murder accused Henri van Breda at the High Court in Cape Town. File photo.

Image by: Esa Alexander/Sunday Times

The state is concerned that witnesses in the Henri van Breda murder trial will be intimidated by the presence of cameras in the courtroom and this may impede their testimony.

The trial is set to start in the Western Cape High Court on Monday. Van Breda is accused of murdering his father Martin‚ mother Teresa and brother Rudi with an axe in January 2015. His sister Marli survived the attack but sustained serious injuries.

Media24 has applied to live-stream court proceedings but the state and Van Breda’s lawyers have opposed the application. Judge Siraj Desai heard arguments by the parties on Friday.

John Butler‚ for Media24‚ said streaming the trial would be in the interest of justice and ensure the “fundamental constitutional right of the media”.

He referred to state Advocate Susan Galloway’s submission that some witnesses had warned they would not testify if the trial was broadcast. This should be taken into consideration‚ he said‚ and where there were objections only audio would be used.

However‚ Hilton Epstein‚ acting for the state‚ said witness “who are not used to cameras… might become self aware… [or] self conscious”. Some might even crave the limelight and so too could lawyers. This could have an impact on their testimony.

In addition he questioned why the media had resorted to the “Hollywoodisation” of this trial.

Van Breda’s counsel‚ Francois van Zyl‚ said he was not opposed to photographs being taken before the start of proceedings. But broadcasting events in court “might prejudice an accused’s criminal trial” because witnesses would be exposed directly to the testimony of others.

Traditionally‚ witnesses are not allowed in court during criminal trials except when they take the stand.

When Judge Desai asked whether Oscar Pistorious’ testimony had been televised‚ Van Zyl said‚ “No. I checked with Barry Roux yesterday… It was the audio you heard”.

Advocate Louise Buikman‚ who acts as a close family member’s curator‚ said it was the teenager’s wish that “this is not televised”.

She said being exposed to footage of the trial‚ would be “very distressing”.

“We try to shield her as much as possible‚” said Buikman.

Judge Desai said the media was not allowed to photograph the minor and assured Buikman that the best interests of the child were of great importance.

The January 2015 family murders on the luxury De Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch shocked the country.

In June last year Van Breda handed himself over to police after his lawyers learnt that he was going to be arrested. He appeared in the Stellenbosch Magistrate’s Court on charges of murder‚ attempted murder and defeating the ends of justice.

Bail was set at R100 000 and Van Breda was released under conditions that include having to report to his local police station. He is also not allowed to leave the Western Cape.

Desai will deliver his decision on the use of cameras on Monday morning before the start of the trial.

– TMG Digital/The Times

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