Judge lashes magistrate who locked up defence lawyer for ‘disrespect’

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Lawyer listening to the judge in the court room

A lawyer who arrived at court to defend her client was locked up after refusing a magistrate’s instructions that she should represent another man being sentenced for assault.

The Legal Aid SA candidate attorney’s experience at Port Alfred magistrate’s court must have been “frightening, shocking and humiliating”, a Grahamstown high court judge said this week.

Judge Judith Roberson said the unnamed magistrate who locked up the candidate attorney, whom she identified as Ms N December, was guilty of a “gross irregularity”.

In her judgment on Tuesday, Roberson added: “It goes without saying that to deprive a person of their liberty, even for a short period, is an extremely serious matter.

“A judicial officer simply cannot order the detention of a person in such a fashion without having in mind the exact statutory power invoked and without giving the person to be detained an opportunity to address the court in relation to that particular statutory power.”