The wheels of justice are turning slowly and somewhat erratically, it seems, in the case of the appeal by Cape Town Christian pro-life activist Peter Throp against his conviction for damaging municipal property by placing pro-life stickers over illegal abortion stickers.
Nearly four months after a Cape Town magistrate fined him R5 000 or three months imprisonment suspended for five years, his appeal which he lodged with the Belville Magistrate’s Court on February 7, immediately after his sentencing, was only lodged with the Supreme Court on May 24.
“Up until last week we understood that [the] Bellville court was waiting for the Magistrate to sign it so they could proceed. However, when she was asked what had happened to it, she said she had not received it. When the Senior Magistrate was asked to intervene, the magistrate suddenly ‘found it’, signed it, and it was returned. So the appeal was lodged at the High Court on Friday last week,” says Throp in an email dated May 29.
Gaps in transcription
But there is another holdup with the appeal process. The 82-page transcription of Throp’s trial has many ‘gaps’ in the record and has been sent back to the Magistrate’s Court to be re-transcribed.
In his email of May 25 Throp says the transcription that he requested and paid for is “a ‘dogs breakfast’ with no less than 231 ‘inaudible’ [annotations] inserted within”.
“How can anyone have an appeal if the transcript cannot be understood correctly?”
Responding to Throp’s complaints about the patchy transcription the transcriber, Natalie Young, says in emails dated May 30 and June 3 that the problem was the poor recording quality of the proceedings.
Subequently, Paul Van Der Merwe, Chief Advocate for the National Prosecuting Authority, saw an open letter from Throp’s wife Terry, to the court and phoned her to discuss the problem, says Terry.
“He agrees that the transcript is unacceptable in its present form and has sent the tapes back to the Bellville Appeals Clerk of the court to be re transcribed!!!,” she says in an email dated June 4.
“If that still proves unacceptable, the people who were present at the trial and sentencing will be called so that the tapes can be heard and hopefully transcribed correctly without errors, add-ins and omissions.
“Pete and I feel encouraged about this, as Mr. Van Der Merwe explained that the appeal will not be heard until he and us are satisfied that the transcript is accurate and a true record of the court proceedings.”
Before his trial Throp and City of Cape Town officials corresponded via emails for months: Throp urged the Mayor, Patricia de Lille, to support his initiative which was aimed at protecting women from illegal abortionists, and which was a last resort because of the local authority’s inability to get rid of the abortion advertisements on city streets. The City stuck to its position that unless Throp stopped his campaign he would face prosecution.