PRETORIA, February 28 – Former State prosecutor and now member of parliament for the Democratic Alliance Glynnis Breytenbach has on Wednesday, been cleared of charges levelled against her, including defeating the ends of justice.
Breytenbach and her former attorney, Gerhard Wagenaar, faced charges of contravening the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Act, and defeating the ends of justice for allegedly shredding work-related documents and deleting her private files from her work laptop while she worked as a State prosecutor.
Magistrate Brian Nemavhidi on Wednesday said the State failed to prove that Breytenbach intentionally acted unlawfully when deleting files.
“Access to [the] laptop was still authorised, the court could not prove without any reasonable doubt that her authorisation was withdrawn,” he said.
Nemavhidi said, Breytenbach backed up information on the NPA server, which means she never had intentions for the information not to be traced.
He added that the deletion was made with the knowledge of NPA officials.
In an unexpected turn of events, State Prosecutor Raymond Mathenjwa also withdrew perjury and fraud charges which they had intended to pursue against Breytenbach.
During her time in the witness stand, Breytenbach reiterated that she did not use any criteria when deleting the files, she claims she deleted what she thought would harm her privacy.
Mathenjwa attacked Breytenbach’s testimony and said it was impossible for her to delete the files without having checked.
Mathenjwa argued that evidence previously presented in court stated there were more than 41 folders on the laptop, but Breytenbach hired an expert to permanently delete 13 folders.
However, Nemavhidi said no evidence was presented which indicated that Breytenbach knew what was in the files.
“[The] accused [Breytenbach] can’t be punished for negligence, negligence doesn’t constitute direct intention,” he said.
Nemavhidi said Breytenbach’s actions are not consistent with someone who wanted to commit an offence.
“She made a call asking for the administration password, unfortunately the call was unsuccessful. Why would she invite witnesses during a commission of a crime.”
Breytenbach has maintained she deleted the documents on the laptop to protect her privacy.
She said she was cautious of the NPA in-case they tampered and manipulated contents of her computer once she had handed it over.
This relates to documents deleted in a matter of a mining rights case involving Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) and Kumba Iron Ore subsidiary Sishen Iron Ore.
Breytenbach was suspended from the NPA in 2012. She was cleared on numerous disciplinary charges, but she resigned from the NPA in 2014. She believes her suspension in April 2012, was a bid to stop her from prosecuting former police crime intelligence head, Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli, amid political interference.