Cape Town – In 2018, the Western Cape Department of Justice received 297 appeals involving cases of violent crimes, ie rape, attempted murder and murder.
Of these, only 202 were finalised and 120 appellants had their judgments and sentences overturned.
In the past month, the Western Cape High Court has denied leave to appeal in two high-profile murder cases.
In the first matter, Nashville Julies was denied leave to appeal last week.
Julies was sentenced to 22 years in prison in November 2018 for the kidnapping and robbery of Stellenbosch University students Hannah Cornelius and her friend Cheslin Marsh.
He was one of one of four accused implicated in the kidnapping and assault of Marsh and the murder, rape and kidnapping of Cornelius, but he was found guilty only of kidnapping and robbery. Julies’s three co-accused were convicted of the murder of Cornelius and the attempted murder of Marsh and sentenced to a combined 358 years’ imprisonment.
Vernon Witbooi and Geraldo Parson, the two ring leaders of the crime, were sentenced to 115 years each, with two life sentences for the rape and murder of Cornelius.
Accused number three, Eben van Niekerk, was sentenced to 128 years and two life sentences.
This week, the high court also denied leave to appeal to the man found guilty of the murder and rape of Courtney Pieters.
Mortimer Saunders, through his lawyer, Morne Calitz, launched a bid to have his conviction and sentence overturned on the grounds that another court would have reached a different conclusion.
Calitz argued that Saunders had not planned to poison, rape and murder the toddler but rather that he acted on impulse and it was not premeditated murder.
Courtney’s body was found on May 13, 2017 near a dumping site in Epping and was positively identified by her parents the next day.
Judge Babalwa Mantame said she did not err in her original judgment and sentencing of Saunders and was of the view that a different court would come to the same conclusion as she had.
Calitz also argued that the two consecutive life sentences handed down to Saunders should have run concurrently. “In law one can only serve one life sentence,” he said.
Criminal lawyer William Booth told Weekend Argus there are quite a number of appeals on convictions and sentences from lower courts that are set aside by high courts.
Appeals from the lower courts are usually heard by two judges in the high court, and magistrates’ decisions are often set aside.
“With regard to appeals I have dealt with in the high court during 2017-2018, we have a great success rate with leave to appeal being granted. However, as a result of the backlog and the administrative process, it is a lengthy period before the matter obtains a court date to be argued,” said Booth.
He added that with regard to bail appeals against a magistrate’s refusal to fix bail for an accused, the high court, in quite a number of instances, has found that the magistrate has wrongly refused bail, and the high court has fixed bail. “With bail appeals, the accused is yet to be found guilty and has a right to be presumed to be innocent and a right to freedom,” Booth concluded.
Just yesterday, Booth was able to have a conviction and sentence set aside. The matter was Albert Castro vs State. The appellant was charged with one count of theft of a motor vehicle and being in possession of stolen property.
Castro was sentenced to 10 years’ direct imprisonment and had already served 18 months when his sentence and conviction were set aside.
The conviction and sentence were overturned in the Western Cape High Court as the judges found that it was a miscarriage of justice by the regional magistrate in Atlantis.
Booth added that Castro may yet sue the magistrate or his lawyer.