Fraud accused wants to be freed to prepare for trial

Brenda Wardle appears in the Commercial Crimes Court in Port Elizabeth

Legal expert Wardle adamant she will defend herself

Dead set on conducting her own defence because she believes with her qualifications she can do a better job than most, legal commentator Brenda Wardle has asked a judge to order her immediate release so that she can prepare for trial.

The legal expert, who became a household name during her international commentary on the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, said the conditions at North End Correctional Centre, where she has been in custody since June, were not conducive for her to prepare an adequate defence.

Wardle, 56, stands accused in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court of defrauding an Eastern Cape family out of more than R500 000 between April 2009 and August 2013, by pretending to be a practising attorney and offering to assist them in having an imprisoned relative released on parole.

In a neatly handwritten application filed with the Port Elizabeth High Court, which Wardle said had been painful to draft because of an abscess on her thumb, she asked the judge to declare her arrest and subsequent detention unlawful, and to order her immediate release.

She said she also intended bringing a civil claim against the minister of police.

In the application – which cites, among others, commercial crimes magistrates Louis Claassen and Lionel Lindoor, state advocate Tjaart van Zyl and commercial crimes unit commander Colonel Andre Horak – Wardle said the warrant used to effect her arrest in East London was, on face value, defective because it was not even stamped.

She said under normal circumstances she would have challenged the validity of the warrant immediately.

However, the arrest had taken place in a humiliating fashion in front of her young grandchildren. “They were visibly traumatised.”

Wardle said neighbours in her street had also started to congregate and that the policemen in civilian clothing had failed to properly identify themselves.

“I conduct my own defence. I am in custody and I do not even have adequate facilities to prepare my defence.”

She said she had repeatedly asked for access to her laptop, the internet and a reading lamp, to no avail.

She furthermore accused the police of lying during her bail application in July, when it emerged that she had evaded court for more than a year.

“I had attended court but was diagnosed with severe hypertension and missed a few court dates.”

Wardle, a published author who was studying towards her Doctor of Laws degree prior to her arrest, indicated at the time that she was more than qualified to conduct her own defence, despite a reminder from magistrate Lindoor of the age-old saying “a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client”.

Wardle is due back in the commercial crimes court on November 24, with the trial expected to start next year.

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