Digital recordings under scrutiny

Dudu Busani

Dudu Busani

Digital data recordings of conversations on the night of Judge Nkola Motata's car accident could easily have been manipulated, the Johannesburg magistrate's court heard yesterday.

Testifying in a trial within a trial to determine the admissibility of the recordings, Software expert Willem de Jongh said that no special skills are required for a person to manipulate data.

"But I cannot say that the recordings have been manipulated," De Jongh said.

The recordings' authenticity is being questioned by Motata's defence: the recordings were made with a cellphone that broke; they were then transferred to a digital camera, which was later stolen; then ended up in the memory card used in court.

Dana van der Merwe, a published author and criminal law and procedure lecturer at Unisa, described the recordings as "third generation evidence".

"What we see now is an interpretation of what was stored in the original recordings," he said.

Motata is standing trial for drunken driving after he crashed his car into the property of Johannesburg businessman Richard Baird last year.

Baird allegedly recorded some of the conversations he had with Motata on the night of the accident.

On the recording the court heard the judge swearing and uttering racial slurs.

The state closed its case yesterday after the last witness, a metro police officer who was at the scene of the accident, failed to appear since she was ill.

Van der Merwe will be cross-examined today.