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Court denies bail to mother of two awaiting trial after abusive partner's death

- Lee-Anne Bruce

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies has appeared five times in the last three weeks before the Palm Ridge Magistrates Court for one bail application. We represent a woman who is currently being forced to await trial in prison after being accused of killing her abusive partner more than six months ago.

CALS launched the application on her behalf earlier this month and, after a number of delays, argued before the Court last week that there is no reason she should not be released on bail. She poses neither a threat nor a flight risk. She has never been convicted of a crime or even arrested before. She cannot leave the country without a valid passport. In addition, our client has two children who depend on her for care and support and she is living with an illness requiring consistent medical treatment which she has not been receiving in prison.

In spite of these facts, the Palm Ridge Magistrates Court denied our client’s bail application this Monday. While we have not received a written judgment, remarks made in Court lead us to believe that the reason she is not being allowed to await trial at home with her family or get the medical treatment she needs is because she is purported to be in the country unlawfully. We intend to appeal this matter to the High Court.

“Remand detention is meant to be a measure of last resort when someone is accused of a crime,” says Vuyolethu Mntonintshi. “Yet here it is being treated as the default. There are no greater requirements in law for people who happen not to be South African citizens.”

“Denying bail in this case is senseless,” says Sheena Swemmer. “With this judgment, the Court has sent a message that rights do not apply equally to everyone. Today, a man accused of stabbing three learners at Forest High has been granted bail a week after the incident, but our client remains in prison.”

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