Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Armed criminals hold magistrate hostage

Court proceedings in Molepolole were recently disrupted when criminals held the presiding magistrate hostage and ordered a witness to step down from the dock.

Kgosiitsele Ngakaagae, of the Directorate of Public Prosecution, told The Sunday Standard in an interview that court proceedings were recently disrupted by three criminals during an armed robbery trial held in Molepolole.
The case involves 6 suspects who are charged with five counts that include armed robbery, unlawful possession of arms of war and unlawful possession of ammunition of war.

The suspects allegedly robbed Choppies Supermarket in Thamaga village of about P127 257, 26 on 17 May 2007.

He said while a state witness was still testifying, the criminals ordered the witness to step down from the dock but the prosecutor ordered the witness to go back to the stand and give the testimony.

Then the situation got ugly when the three suspects lept out of the dock and went straight to grab three drinking glasses that are normally put on the table and rushed straight for the magistrate, threatening to smash the drinking glasses on the magistrate.
“I was scared, including the magistrate and witnesses, because the suspects were capable of doing anything if one is not careful enough,” said Ngakaagae.

He said the suspects ordered the magistrate to recuse himself from the case but the magistrate felt that their argument did not carry weight and decided to continue with the trial.
He said the suspects demanded to be given the exhibits but, as state counsel, he objected to their demands because the exhibits were to be used against them.

“I pleaded with the suspects who were highly charged and asked the court to adjourn for a few minutes,” he said.
Ngakaagae said his major concern was the safety of those who were in court, including himself, but was glad that nobody got hurt.

He said the situation was calm soon after the police entered the courtroom.
The prosecutor added that the magistrate then recused himself from the case and the case was postponed to June, adding that the case should be investigated and the suspects charged accordingly.
Ngakaagae said security within courts should be of priority as it was now clear that drinking glasses can be a dangerous weapon in the courts. He suggested the use of disposable paper cups.

Speaking to the The Sunday Standard, the Master and Registrar of the High Court, Godfrey Nthomiwa, said they are concerned about the security of the judicial officers and efforts are being made to improve security.

He stressed that the police should take the full responsibility to ensure that there is enough security at court.

Nthomiwa added that a court orderly should always be available at all times during court proceedings, adding that he was very disappointed by what transpired during court proceedings in Molepolole.

“There are ways in which suspects can follow if they want the magistrate to recuse himself from the case, not resorting to violence,” Nthomiwa said, adding that they are considering replacing drinking glasses with either disposal or plastic cups because there are less dangerous should suspects throw one at an officer.

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