Court spat puts prosecutor in jail

16 April 2018 | Justice

A Windhoek public prosecutor, who was sentenced to 30 days' imprisonment on Friday after he was found guilty of contempt of court, was released later the same day on warning, pending an appeal.

Public prosecutor Rowan van Wyk's reportedly brief time behind bars on Friday followed a verbal altercation around a docket in a criminal matter before Magistrate Gerrit Brand van Pletzen.

On Friday afternoon, Yvette Hüsselmann, chief public relations officer at the Office of the Judiciary informed Namibian Sun that Van Wyk had been released with a warning on Friday afternoon, and that the matter was pending appeal.

According to the court record, Van Wyk informed Van Pletzen at the start of proceedings that the matter of Hafeni Thomas Nakasole could not proceed and that he was asking for a postponement.

He told the court that this was because the “matter is a prosecutor general's-decision, and the decision is not yet available.”

Van Pletzen however dismissed this assertion, noting that “it is clear this plead was taken already on 7 March 2017. In June 2017 the prosecutor, Mr Lusepani, told this court that the docket was submitted late and requested a postponement for the prosecutor-general's decision.”

He further told Van Wyk that by informing the court that the prosecutor-generals' decision was not yet available, the prosecutor was “implying directly that the matter is lying at the PG, and that the reason for the delay is there”.

Van Pletzen said he would not further postpone the matter unless “I know that the docket is lying at the prosecutor-general's office, and what the reason for the delay is.”

Van Wyk replied that Van Pletzen is “wrong” and that he did not imply “anything like that”.

Van Pletzen responded and said that he “is directly implying that the docket is at the prosecutor-general's office, and that the delay is there. I want to hear nothing further.”

Van Wyk argued that van Pletzen was “insulting me in open court”.

When ordered “not to say anything further” by the magistrate, Van Wyk responded by saying “I will not keep quiet”, according to the court record.

Van Pletzen warned the prosecutor that “if you do not refrain from interrupting me, sir, you will find yourself in contempt.”

The records indicate that Van Wyk continued to speak, after which the magistrate again warned him “of the consequences of interrupting me. Keep quiet now”.

Van Wyk responded: “I challenge you, find me in contempt,” the court record shows.

Van Pletzen then ruled that Van Wyk is found guilty of being in contempt of court and sentenced him to 30 days' imprisonment.

Namibian Sun was also informed on Friday that prosecutor-general Martha Imalwa on the same day allegedly instructed the Windhoek magistrate heads that no more public prosecutors may appear before Magistrate van Pletzen.

This could not be confirmed by the time of going to print.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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