court case

‘Callous‚ insensitive’ magistrate slammed for treatment of deaf defendant

Cape Town – A deaf man who was jailed for 15 years for murder has had his conviction overturned by judges who said the magistrate who tried him displayed “appalling insensitivity and prejudice” regarding his disability.

Acting Judge Diane Davis and Judge Thandazwa Ndita said Raymond Kruse was denied a fair trial by a magistrate in Wynberg‚ Cape Town‚ who expressed “undisguised scepticism” about his disability “which amounted to bias on her part”.

They said they would send a copy of their ruling‚ delivered in the High Court in Cape Town on Monday‚ to the Magistrates’ Commission “with a view to raising awareness of the need for … sensitivity training in relation to persons with disabilities”.

The judges said: “If the State decides to bring fresh charges against [Kruse]‚ the case must be tried before a different magistrate and regard must be had to the guidelines set out in this judgment.”

Kruse‚ 63‚ was convicted in May 2017 of shooting dead Nashief Davids in Eastridge‚ Mitchells Plain‚ in 2014. He claimed to have acted in self-defence but he was convicted and jailed for 15 years‚ five years of which were conditionally suspended.

A sign language interpreter was provided‚ but when it became apparent Kruse did not understand sign language‚ the magistrate ruled that communication with him should be in writing.

The judges said this was unlawful‚ shambolic and unfair. Because of his speech impediment‚ when Kruse gave evidence the magistrate ordered him to write his answers down in addition to giving oral answers.

“That is a tall order for anyone‚ let alone someone who suffers from hearing and speech difficulties‚” said the judges.

“Instead of facilitating [Kruse’s] communication‚ the magistrate made it more onerous for him … He was reduced to a passive and powerless spectator at his own trial‚ which rolled on like a juggernaut‚ trampling his constitutional rights in the process.”

Davis and Ndita slammed the magistrate for giving public vent to her scepticism about Kruse’s deafness. “She violated his dignity with her callous laughter and open incredulity‚” they said.