Quote of the week

Although judicial proceedings will generally be bound by the requirements of natural justice to a greater degree than will hearings before administrative tribunals, judicial decision-makers, by virtue of their positions, have nonetheless been granted considerable deference by appellate courts inquiring into the apprehension of bias. This is because judges ‘are assumed to be [people] of conscience and intellectual discipline, capable of judging a particular controversy fairly on the basis of its own circumstances’: The presumption of impartiality carries considerable weight, for as Blackstone opined at p. 361 in Commentaries on the Laws of England III . . . ‘[t]he law will not suppose possibility of bias in a judge, who is already sworn to administer impartial justice, and whose authority greatly depends upon that presumption and idea’. Thus, reviewing courts have been hesitant to make a finding of bias or to perceive a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of a judge, in the absence of convincing evidence to that effect.

L'Heureux-Dube and McLachlin JJ
Livesey v The New South Wales Bar Association [1983] HCA 17; (1983) 151 CLR 288
30 May 2007

Robert McBride and the Tooth Fairy

When I wrote a few months ago that Robert McBride (pictured) was a favourite scapegoat for many white South Africans who refuse to acknowledge the evils of apartheid, I received some vitriolic emails. Well, I still think that many white South Africans judge McBride more harshly than other state officials, but if the latest report in The Star is true, he deserves all the scorn coming to him.

The newspaper reports that three of the top cops in the Metro who had been on the scene of McBride’s car crash and who had now made statements that do not correspond with the version given by McBride, are being victimised at work.

On May 18, notices were placed around various metro police offices banning Chief Superintendent Stanley Segathevan, Superintendent Itumeleng Koko and Chief Superintendent Patrick Johnstone from entering the premises. The official reason: they had tried to gain unauthorised entry into the police’s head office after hours.

On Tuesday, the trio consulted their lawyer about getting a protection order against McBride. They also tried to hand in their letters of grievances at their offices, but were denied access.

It is perhaps not surprising that no decision has been made whether McBride will be charged with drunken or reckless driving. After all, the cops (McBride’s pals) who happened on the accident scene whisked McBride away and did not take a blood sample as would normally have been required. McBride said afterwards that he had amnesia and could not remember how he rolled the car after returning from an end of year Christmas party and in any case, it was all a racist conspiracy.

I am sure there are a few people out there who believe McBride. I mean, who on earth would drink any alcohol at the Police end of year Christmas party – unthinkable, surely. And amnesia is a common occurrence so how can we doubt his claims in this regard. It happens all the time – in Days of our Lives.

Those same people who believe McBride’s story will also believe that judge Hlophe got permission to receive R500 000 from Oasis from mid 2001 for “out of pocket” expenses from now dead Minister Dullah Omar in early 1999. And while we are at it, we should ask them about the whereabouts of tooth fairy and whether Father Christmas wear underpants under that red coat of his.

Jokes aside, the whole thing stinks. Police are supposed to be beyond reproach and we the people pay them to enforce the law. If a leading police officer like McBride, who is Ekurhuleni Metro Police Chief, tries to avoid the law like this, he is undermining respect for the Rule of Law.

If the report in The Star is correct, he has now also abused his position of authority to avoid criminal sanction and could then potentially be found guilty of the obstruction of justice.

But maybe the report is not true. I am looking forward to McBride’s press conference where he will explain everything and will deny that he is abusing his power to thwart the criminal investigation against him.

What will he say? This time amnesia won’t do the trick. Maybe he will claim he got permission from Dullah Omar to bar the cops from their places of work. Oh no, that is the wrong Minister, so that won’t work either. He should speak to Judge Hlophe who will surely be handy with a creative answer or two?

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