Move to free perlemoen kingpin
Convicted poachers want to appeal against heavy prison sentences, judge accused of bias in court hearing
Convicted perlemoen kingpin Julian Brown has been given a cruel, inhumane and degrading sentence, his lawyers have claimed, and they want him released from St Albans Prison as soon as possible.Accusing the judge of being biased by making a series of incorrect decisions, counsel have claimed in court papers that Brown, 32, has practically been handed a life sentence.Having served less than two months of his 18-year prison term, Brown, found to be the head of a multimillion-rand criminal enterprise, has asked for bail pending the outcome of his appeal, should judge Mandela Makaula give him the goahead.Eugene “Boesman” Victor and Brandon Turner, also convicted on charges which included racketeering and contravention of the Marine Living Resources Act, and similarly given hefty terms of imprisonment, are also applying for leave to appeal against their convictions and sentences.In papers filed this week, it was argued that Brown had not benefited financially from the illegal perlemoen trade and that there was never any evidence of a single perlemoen found in his possession.The matter is expected to be argued before Makaula in the Bhisho High Court on Monday.Advocate Terry Price SC, instructed by attorney Alwyn Griebenow, claimed Makaula had erred in accepting the veracity of the evidence presented by the state in circumstances where the standard thereof was of a poor quality, contradictory in material aspects and improbable.They claimed further that the judge had failed to give legitimate reasons in his judgment as to why the defence case had been rejected.The state will oppose the application for leave to appeal.Price said in not properly applying the cautionary rules when it came to Section 204 witnesses, and in subjecting the defence witnesses to more stringent analysis than it did the state witnesses, “the court exhibited bias against the applicants”. Brown explained in an affidavit that it had taken this long to launch the application because despite numerous requests Makaula had taken 13 days to supply his lawyers with the typed judgment on the merits and sentence.Price said there was significant evidence that the state and police, particularly Hawks Captain Kanna Swanepoel and Captain Rassie Erasmus, had been involved in numerous illegal and unconstitutional activities, including the “grooming” of state witnesses with promises that they would either walk away free or be given light sentences.Price said one state witness, Renier Ellerbeck, was paid R70,000 to be an informer and for his testimony, a fact that Makaula discarded.On the flip side, despite Brown offering to provide information against perlemoen smugglers to state advocate Martin le Roux and the police, he had been labelled a kingpin instead of an informer.While it was alleged that Brown had acquired a fleet of luxury vehicles and watches, Price said having had access to his bank records, assets and liabilities, the police found no evidence to corroborate racketeering.“The approach of the court since inception and during the entire trial . . . indicates that the court was not fair, objective and impartial as required by the law.”Price added that the sentences imposed on all three men were “cruel, inhumane and degrading”.“The sentence imposed elevates retribution to a place in the sentencing jurisprudence in this country which it does not deserve and in doing so, shows no balance, objectivity or mercy,” he said.Victor and Turner are each serving an effective 15 years in prison.