Justice Centre head Harry Lerm retires


Port Elizabeth legal eagle Dr Henry Lerm will hang up his gown next week after 16 years at the helm of the Uitenhage Justice Centre.
But Lerm, 65, has his sights set on greater things.
On Thursday Lerm and his wife Lindsay will set out on a well-deserved overseas trip.
“This is a fulfillment of a promise that I had made to my wife 30 years ago that one day when I retire, I will be taking her on an overseas holiday – Scotland and Ireland where her roots are. She deserves it for all the sacrifices she has made throughout my career. I am a man of my word,” Lerm said.
The couple will also visit Italy, where Lerm will be presenting a lecture at the University of Camerino near Rome.
The topic is “The reception of the Roman Law in SA (and its legality in the modern South African Law”).
Upon his return, he will continue lecturing at universities in the country and at the same time he intends to finish writing a book, the father of two daughters said.
Lerm was appointed head of the Uitenhage Justice Centre in January 2003 and he took different roles, such as administration and training of lawyers.
“I recall when joining the centre I had to exchange my attorney skills for managerial skills in the administration of the office. I continued to share my law skills by training lawyers, including candidate attorneys at Legal Aid South Africa. Because of my love for law, I never severed fully the ties with litigation,” he said.
In 1997, Lerm lost his eight-year-old son Justin to malaria, which he contracted in the Kruger National Park.
“This tragic incident prompted me to do research and lecture on the topic of medical law and ethics.”
It was a way to turn a negative into a positive, he said.
In 2008, Lerm was conferred a doctorate of law from the University of Pretoria.
His research encompassed medical law and ethics, focusing on medical malpractice litigation in the healthcare system and the effect of exclusionary clauses on liability.
“The conclusion I came to with my doctorate was that healthcare practitioners and institutions should not hide behind the protective shield of exclusion clauses in the contracts they enter with patients.
“After all, they owe the patient a duty of care,” he said.
When the centre first opened its doors in Uitenhage in 2003, Lerm had a staff complement of four, but today he is leaving behind 25.
Lerm was involved with several high-profile cases.
He said the most harrowing one had been that of a Uitenhage mother who poisoned her two minor children.

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