Magistrate appalled by more delays in Durban police brutality case

Despite assurances, the state and the defence are still not ready for the Regan Naidoo death-in-custody trial

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From left to right: Jones Naicker (Regan Naidoo’s grandfather), Siva Mudley (family friend), Timothy Naidoo (Regan’s father), and Jeffery Mahalingan (Regan’s uncle) outside court. The trial of 18 police officers for his death in custody has again been postponed. Photo: Benita Enoch

  • The trial of 18 police officers for the death-in-custody of Regan Naidoo in 2018 has been delayed yet again.
  • On Tuesday, the pretrial conference was adjourned to 31 May in the Durban Magistrates’ Court.
  • The new defence team said it had underestimated the volume of documents.
  • Magistrate Maryn Mewalal warned the state and the defence against further “unnecessary, unreasonable and unjust” delays.
  • The numerous postponements since Nadioo’s death six years ago have been an ordeal for the family.

The pretrial conference of a death-in-custody case involving 18 police officers was adjourned to 31 May in the Durban Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

Magistrate Maryn Mewalal said she was concerned about “the unnecessary, unreasonable and unjust delays this case has endured.”

The officers, many of them attached to the Chatsworth police station, are facing trial after Regan Naidoo, 32, died in police custody in August 2018. Naidoo had been apprehended at a petrol station in Chatsworth on suspicion of being in possession of a firearm used in a crime.

After an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), initially 22 officers were arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder, torture, kidnapping and defeating the ends of justice.

There are three defence teams representing the accused.

At the last convening, on 23 February, advocate Anesh Sukdeo, who had been appointed the day before to represent three of the accused, said he would be ready for the pretrial conference. But on Tuesday, advocate Thobani Khuzwayo attended court on his behalf and informed the magistrate that the documents had been too voluminous to get through in time.

Magistrate Mewalal asked why Sukdeo could not be in court to answer for his previous assurances and to advise the court how much time he still needed. Khuzwayo said he was in court on Sukdeo’s instruction, and that they would be ready by the end of July.

Mewalal rejected this request and set a new pretrial hearing for 31 May.

She said the state and the defence would have to make the time to get through the workload to get the case moving forward.

She adjourned the matter and extended bail for the accused.

Divashin Govender, who is representing one of the accused, told GroundUp his client was being prejudiced by the delays caused by the state and other defence teams. “We have been ready for years,” he said outside court.

Naidoo’s widow, Kerosha, was at court with the family.

“We have to face them [the accused] every time we come to court,” she said tearfully. “They are out on bail, but our lives will never be the same. It takes me days to recover after seeing them in court. I am a single mother, raising two children on my own. I have to put on a brave face when I go home.”

She was six months pregnant with their second child when her husband died.

“My son is old enough to ask where his father is and I still don’t know how to tell him.”

Regan’s father Timothy Naidoo welcomed Magistrate Mewalal’s firm stance on addressing the time wasted on postponements.

TOPICS:  Court Police brutality

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