Charged judge 'pampered'

Justice department officials were unable to explain yesterday why a Pretoria judge appeared in a magistrate's chambers instead of in court in connection with a drunken driving charge.

Justice department officials were unable to explain yesterday why a Pretoria judge appeared in a magistrate's chambers instead of in court in connection with a drunken driving charge.

"It is unusual in a criminal matter for the case to be heard in chambers. It is usually heard in open court," a spokesman for the department, Zolile Nqayi, said.

He said a case could be heard in chambers if the presiding officer or both parties made an application to do so.

"And there have to be reasons for that," Nqayi said.

Pretoria high court judge Nkola Motata appeared briefly in magistrate Herman Visser's chambers at the Hillbrow magistrates' court.

Visser said the senior prosecutor had requested that Motata appear in chambers.

"The director of public prosecutions is still waiting for the blood [alcohol test] results so that he can decide whether to prosecute," he said.

Nqayi said he could not comment on Motata's case because he did not have information about it.

Motata was arrested on charges of drunken driving last month after he drove into a wall in Hurlingham, Johannesburg.

He allegedly resisted arrest and was put into a police car at the scene by five metro police officers.

Motata was released on bail of R1000 from the Parkview police station.

He is on leave of absence from duty until the end of February.- Sapa

l The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) said it was shocked at the privileged treatment accorded Motata when he was due to appear in the Hillbrow magistrates' court on a drunken driving charge.

The forum said Motata's favoured treatment was reminiscent of the pampering accorded former ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni.

Sanef protested that reporters and photographers had been misinformed by the police and by court officials as to the disposition of the Motata case and this amounted to censorship, which was unacceptable in normal court practice and in terms of the constitution.

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