Dippenaar magistrate denies bias

02 June 2020 | Justice


After an eight-month break the marathon trial of murder accused Jandré Dippenaar continued at the regional court in Swakopmund this week.
At the start of the proceedings Dippenaar’s lawyers filed an application for Magistrate Gaynor Poulton to be recused, claiming that she was biased. The application was dismissed.
The accusation of bias was based on a slip of the tongue during the magistrate’s ruling on an earlier application by State prosecutor Ethel Ndlovu.
On September 18 2019, the prosecutor requested that accident reconstruction expert Johan Joubert should testify again. Poulton granted the application, saying, “It is indeed so for the court to come to a just sentence that the application must be granted.” In her written notes, however, she did not use the word “sentence” but "decision".

Slip of the tongue
“No one uses the words 'just sentence' at any point during a proceeding," advocate Louis Botes said yesterday.
Using the word “sentence” created the impression that the court had already made up its mind, which would infringe on the accused’s right to a free and fair trial.
Poulton described the application as “unfounded, unreasonable and not objectively justified” and rejected it.
“Since the trial started on 24 January 2017, twenty witnesses have testified and hundreds of hours have been spent and there has never been any suggestion that the court is biased," she said, adding that this application would merely prolong the case.
She described the use of the two words as a “slip of the tongue” and said it was only brought to her attention this week.
Dippenaar is the first person in Namibia to be charged with murder after a car accident. He is accused of having caused a head-on collision between Henties Bay and Swakopmund on 29 December 2014, killing six people: Jan-Carel Horn, Dinah Pretorius, Charlene Schoombee and three German nationals on holiday in Namibia. Only Dippenaar himself and Antonia Joschko, who was 16 years old at the time, survived. Joschko lost her father, Markus Walter Helmut Joschko, her mother, Stephanie Schermuck-Joschko, and sister, Alexandra Marlene Joschko.