'Court the final arbiter, not NPA'

Plea-bargaining and immunity from prosecution were useful tools in helping the state advance its case in court matters, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Tlali Tlai said yesterday.

Plea-bargaining and immunity from prosecution were useful tools in helping the state advance its case in court matters, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesman Tlali Tlai said yesterday.

Each case is treated on merit and the court is the final arbiter on whether the witness was honest and truthful, he said.

On Wednesday, it was announced that plea-bargaining agreements and immunity from prosecution were included in the terms of reference of the hearing to determine whether suspended National Director of Public Prosecutions, Vusi Pikoli, was fit to hold office.

Pikoli was suspended in September on grounds of a breakdown in the relationship between himself and Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla.

Part of the inquiry would be to seek to establish whether he, in taking decisions to grant immunity from prosecution to, or enter into plea-bargaining arrangements with people allegedly involved in illegal activities and organised crime, "took due regard to the public interest and the national security interests" of the country.

Responding to general questions and not commenting on the terms of reference of the inquiry, Tlai explained that these processes were carried out in terms of Section 204 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

"A witness has to testify truthfully and honestly . to the satisfaction of the court, which is the final arbiter," he said.

Until the court makes that decision, the witness is not off the hook.

Wits University Law Clinic professor Stephen Tuson, who also practises as a defence attorney, said an example of its usefulness would be of four people arrested for a murder.

"You have four absolutely rock solid suspects but you just work out which one did it. But then you get one to say what happened, even if he incriminates himself," he explained. - Sapa

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