ATC200727: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on the confirmation of suspension/removal from office of Ms LB Freeman, Senior Magistrate, Mossel Bay, dated 25 June 2020
Report of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services on the confirmation of suspension/removal from office of Ms LB Freeman, Senior Magistrate, Mossel Bay, dated 25 June 2020
The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services, having considered the Report, dated 25 May 2020, on the confirmation of suspension/removal from office of Ms L B Freeman, a Senior Magistrate, Mossel Bay, tabled in terms of section 13(4)(b) of the Magistrates Act, 1993 (No 90 of 1993) reports as follows:
- Ms Freeman is a Senior Magistrate and the Judicial Head of Office at the Mossel Bay District Court. Ms Freeman was appointed to the lower court bench on 24 October 2006 and was appointed a Senior Magistrate at Mossel Bay on 1 May 2017. On 23 November 2017, Ms Freeman was charged with 29 counts of misconduct relating to various acts of dishonesty committed between 2015 and 2017.
- On the advice of the Magistrate’s Commission (the Commission), the Minister provisionally suspended Ms LB Freeman from office. The National Council of Provinces and National Assembly confirmed the provisional suspension on 5 September 2018 and 25 October 2018, respectively.
- The disciplinary inquiry against Ms Freeman commenced on 21 February 2018. On 24 July 2019, the Presiding officer found Ms Freeman guilty of all 29 charges of misconduct and, on 12 September 2019, the Presiding Officer recommended that Ms Freeman be removed from office.
- On 12 November 2019, having considered all the relevant documents, the Commission resolved to recommend to the Minister that Ms Freeman be removed from office on the grounds of misconduct in terms of section 13(4)(a)(i) of the Act. The Commission was of the view that Ms Freeman’s conduct, as set out in the charge sheet, of which she was found guilty was so serious that it justifies her removal from office. “Her conduct displays dishonesty which puts her integrity as
a judicial officer in serious doubt and renders her unfit to hold the office of
Magistrate any longer” (paragraph 3.9. of the Report). The Minister was advised accordingly, in writing, on 27 November 2019 and the required documentation referred to in the Commission’s letter and a draft report was personally delivered to the Minister’s office on 28 November 2019.
- In terms of section 13(4)(a), of the Magistrates Act, if the Commission recommends that a magistrate be removed from office on inter alia the basis of misconduct, the Minister must suspend that magistrate from office or, if the magistrate is provisionally suspended from office, confirm the suspension.
- A report, in which the suspension and the reasons therefore, must be tabled in Parliament by the Minister within fourteen (14) days of the suspension, if Parliament is in session, or, if Parliament is not in session, within fourteen (14) days after the commencement of its next session. Parliament must then, as soon as reasonably possible, pass a resolution as to whether or not to restore the magistrate so suspended to office. After a resolution has been passed by Parliament, the Minister shall restore the Magistrate concerned to his/her office or remove him/her from office, as the case may be.
- The Minister suspended Ms Freeman from office on 26 May 2020 and tabled the report on 2 June 2020. The matter was referred to the Committee for consideration and report on 10 June 2020.
- The matter was then placed for consideration on the agenda of a joint virtual meeting of the Committee and the Select Committee on Security and Justice held on 17 June 2020.
- During the meeting the Committees were informed that Ms. Freeman had tendered her resignation by submitting an e-mail message from her cellular phone to the Secretary of the Commission just before the meeting began. The Committees requested a response from the Commission on Ms Freeman’s notice of resignation, which it submitted in a document dated 23 June 2020.
- The Committee and Select Committee on Security and Justice met on 25 June 2020 where the Commission provided case law to substantiate the argument that Ms Freeman’s resignation did not comply with the prescripts regarding the period of notice for resignations.
- The Commission advised that Ms Freeman would still hold the office of Magistrate until 31 July 2020 and, therefore, Parliament would not be barred from deliberating on and determining a resolution regarding Ms Freeman’s removal from office, as she is still a Judicial Officer until the expiration of her notice period.
- The Commission advised further that, “[t]here appears to be no legal impediment for the Committees to consider the report on Ms Freeman’s suspension and make recommendations to both Houses of Parliament in this regard. It is, on the basis of the information, prescripts and case law provided, therefore recommended that Parliament, in terms of section 13(4)(c) of the Act proceeds with the process to pass a resolution whether or not to restore Ms Freeman to the office of Magistrate.”
- The Committee, having considered the report on the confirmation of suspension/removal from office of Ms LB Freeman, senior Magistrate, Mossel Bay, tabled in terms of section 13(4)(b) of the Magistrates Act, 1993, recommends that the National Assembly resolve not to restore Ms LB Freeman to the office of magistrate.
Report to be considered.
No related documents