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Thursday, August 22, 2019
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‘Suggestions that Judge Masipa was bribed undermines’- Council

The sentencing of Paralympian athlete, Oscar Pistorius, having now been disposed of, the General Council of the Bar condemns the personal attacks and threats against Her Ladyship, the Honourable Justice Thokozile Masipa, relating to her decision to acquit Mr Pistorius of murder and to convict him of culpable homicide.

The GCB said in a statement that trials which attract as much media interest as this one has, and which are televised live, are bound to evoke strong reactions, “The outcome will almost invariably give rise to polarised opinion amongst members of the public.

The commentary and engagement in social media and other platforms on this case is a testament to freedom of expression and an inevitable consequence of the very public nature of this trial”,

“There is, however, no excuse for the derogatory comments which have been made regarding Judge Masipa's race and gender and the threats levelled against her personal security.

The Council further said that as impartial arbiters, judges play a uniquely important role in the democracy and that they are integral to the proper functioning of a constitutional system under the rule of law.

“It is through their office that judicial power is exercised in accordance with the Constitution - a fundamental tenet of our democracy. It is for this reason that our Constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary and judges”,

“It is their often difficult task to decide the matters upon which they adjudicate fairly and impartially on the basis of the law and the facts before them. As in all constitutional democracies, South Africa has a system of 2 appeals from a judge of first instance so as to enable a party aggrieved by any decision the opportunity of putting its case before a higher Court, and correcting any errors which may have been made in the judgment of the Court a quo”.

According to the GCB the decisions emanating from the Courts are not beyond criticism.

“Unfounded suggestions that Judge Masipa was bribed, and the insults and threats which have been directed at her are, however, not only offensive and inappropriate, but also serve to undermine the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law enshrined in our Constitution”, said the Council

 The GCB accordingly calls for restraint in debating judgments in our Courts and commentary which is thoughtful, constructive and responds to the issues of the case and, most importantly, which does not recklessly attack the gender, race or integrity of the judge or judges concerned.

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