Accused Wearing Leg Irons in Court

It is a common practice in many Courts that when an accused person who is in custody, is brought to Court that he is brought to Court in restraints.

These cuffs are usually placed around the ankles of the accused and are usually kept on for the duration of the hearing.

The purposes of these restraints are to of course prevent the accused from fleeing as he would not be able to do so with the restraints around his ankles.

This, of course, has been an issue of contention over many years as our Courts have often felt that if a person is brought to Court in restraints, it creates the perception that this person is already been sentenced and he could easily be viewed by witnesses as having been convicted.

It can of course also negate the accused right to a fair trial.

The issue was raised in State v Khubeka 2013 (1) SACR 257 (GNP).

The Honourable Judge Bertlesman went so far as to say that the court would impose fines on correctional officers for being in contempt of court if prisoners are brought to Court in leg irons.

The Judge remarked that in future he will not hesitate to impose fines if the Court held that bringing the accused into Court in leg irons was contemptuous.

This the Court would only do if it had repeatedly admonished the correctional officers for disregarding this clear directive not only from the local Magistrate but also from our Supreme Court of Appeal.

The Honourable Judge felt that this conduct by the officers clearly bordered on a constitutional issue if it was not remedied immediately 

Marius du Toit

Marius du Toit has 27 years experience in law and specialises in criminal law, road accident fund claims, unlawful arrests, personal injury law, and family law.

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