Durban police brutality case adjourned again

18 officers face trial over death-in-custody of Regan Naidoo in 2018

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(From the left) Regan Naidoo’s aunt, Ruby Mahalingan, father, Timothy Naidoo, and widow, Kerosha Naidoo; her aunt, Malerie Naidoo, and Regan’s uncle, Jeffery Mahalingan. Some of the accused police officers can be seen in the background. Photo: Benita Enoch

  • The pretrial conference of 18 police officers for the death-in-custody of Regan Naidoo in 2018 was adjourned yet again in the Durban Magistrates’ Court on Friday.
  • New legal defence teams have joined the case, contributing to delays.
  • Magistrate Maryn Mewalal reluctantly adjourned to 8 August for the pretrial conference.
  • The Naidoo family say the seemingly endless adjournments are caused by “delay tactics”.

The pretrial conference for a case that involves 18 police officers after Regan Naidoo died in custody in 2018, failed yet again to get off the ground on Friday in the Durban Magistrates’ Court. This time it was because defence teams said documents were missing from discovery.

Magistrate Maryn Mewalal heard that documents from the state pertaining to an application to have cellphone records subpoenaed were missing from the case’s discovery.

According to the defence, the application had legal issues with an affidavit and search warrant that had been used to obtain phone records of the accused.

The defence submitted that because of its alleged illegality, there was a possibility the issue could escalate for appeal in the High Court.

In response, Magistrate Mewalal said the issue would be addressed when it arose in the trial. “I want to be very clear … I want to curtail unnecessary delays and I want this matter set down sooner rather than later,” she said.

The court also heard that new counsel for one of the accused was appointed the day before and counsel needed time to get acquainted with the case and its discovery. Magistrate Mewalal said she understood that the new defence could not be expected to be brought up to speed on discovery on such short notice, but warned against the frequent change of legal representation.

“I do appreciate that there is a right to legal representation, but that is not an unlimited right,” she said.

This is not the first time legal representation has delayed the pretrial conference. In March, the court heard that despite assurances given by Advocate Anesh Sukdeo, he was unable to get through discovery because he underestimated the volume of documents presented before the courts.

On Friday, Magistrate Mewalal expressed her dissatisfaction that this second date for pretrial set at the last adjournment was now not to continue. She said she made it patently clear that all representations needed to be made within the correct time frame.

“I am disappointed … In my view I was very clear. I’m dealing with very many accused persons here and I’m also dealing with the interests of the state in ensuring that this matter begins and concludes,” she said.

She told the state and defence teams to convene in court to find a suitable date for an off-the-record, round-table pretrial hearing that would iron out all issues preventing the case from moving forward.

To this end, the state committed to writing a report on all the issues in dispute and submitting it to the court.

Magistrate Mewalal set down the internal round-table pretrial for 18 June and adjourned the case’s pretrial conference for 8 August.

The accused were arrested in 2021 and have been out on bail since.

Naidoo’s father, widow and uncles and aunts were present at court, wearing matching shirts that called for justice for Regan.

At the last court hearing Kerosha Naidoo, Regan’s widow, said it was traumatising seeing the accused out on bail. She said she wanted to see justice done and that they were struggling to move on since Naidoo’s death.

“We are not very happy because we thought the pretrial was going to start today,” Ruby Mahalingham, Regan’s aunt, told GroundUp outside court. “We are really happy with the magistrate because she is strict and pushing for this trial to move forward. Hopefully, we get some better results on the 8th [August], because these are just delay tactics, now.”

TOPICS:  Crime Police brutality

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