Fraud-accused legal analyst still intent on self-representation, despite court blow
Well-known legal analyst and commentator Brenda Wardle remained adamant she would represent herself during her fraud trial, despite being dealt a massive blow when she was denied bail in the Port Elizabeth Commercial Crimes Court yesterday.
A Bachelor and Master of Laws graduate who is studying towards a Doctor of Laws degree, Wardle said she would not secure legal representation despite the setback.
It is alleged that Wardle, 56, defrauded an Eastern Cape family out of more than R500 000 between April 2009 and August 2013, by pretending to be a practising attorney and offering to help have an imprisoned relative released on parole.
After rejecting her bail application yesterday, magistrate Lionel Lindoor again provided Wardle with the opportunity to secure legal representation, saying she was emotionally involved in the matter.
“It may not be easy for you to think rationally and to look at the evidence against you and cross-examine properly,” Lindoor said.
But Wardle said she was best placed to conduct her own defence. She said she would need to up her game before facing state advocate Tjaart van Zyl.
“I have not had a change of heart,” Wardle said.
“The fact that bail has been denied complicates matters because, as indicated, I have seven witnesses I would need to prepare and all of them are based in Johannesburg.
“Six of them are either attorneys or advocates I work with.
“So if I am going to be wallowing at the ‘Rooi Hel’ [North End] prison, there is no way I can prepare them or even request them to come to Port Elizabeth.”
Lindoor said that while Wardle had the right to appeal against the decision, the court still needed to plan the way forward.
He said Wardle had a long history of forfeiting bail money, not arriving for court appearances and not cooperating with police.
The court had issued various warrants of arrest since June 2014 in attempts to bring her to court, he said.
In many instances Wardle had explained her absences by saying she was sick, as she suffers from chronic hypertension.
Lindoor said the final warrant of arrest had to be executed due to Wardle’s non-compliance and she was subsequently arrested at a family member’s home in East London last month.
He also said she had two other cases of fraud pending elsewhere in the country.
“While the accused person has a right to a speedy trial, victims of crime equally have the right to have their matters finalised without undue delay and to get closure within a reasonable time,” Lindoor said.
He said the likelihood of Wardle evading trial still existed should she be released on bail.
He was satisfied that there were medical facilities available in prisons.
He had also taken into account that Wardle was representing herself and would be limited when it came to preparing for trial.
He said investigating officer Colonel Andre Horak and Van Zyl had offered to assist Wardle with the necessary resources while she was detained.
Wardle said she had not studied the docket relating to the matter as it was at her Johannesburg home.
She also required legal textbooks to prepare for the trial.
Lindoor said copies would be provided to her in prison and consultations with her witnesses would be arranged at the state’s expense.
The matter was postponed to July 27 to provide an opportunity for the state to furnish Wardle with copies of the docket.