Acquitted of fraud, but UK couple remains behind bars

5 March 2011 – It began three weeks ago – the first bit of good luck that Lawrence Goldberg and wife, Margarita Reed, had enjoyed for three years. Jeremy Gordin writes for the Saturday Star.

On 12 February, Goldberg’s mother, Marian, who lives in the US, wrote to the Saturday Star about the plight of her son.

“My son was arrested and charged with fraud in April 2008. It is now two months short of three years. His case has been postponed more times than I can count … What kind of prison system affords more rights to convicted prisoners than it does to those who are innocent until proven guilty?”

The Saturday Star told the Wits Justice Project (WJP), which investigates miscarriages of justice, about the letter and published the letter. The WJP started investigating Goldberg and Reed’s situation and wrote about it.

On Monday [28 February], the couple was acquitted of fraud charges in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act. The act stipulates that if, at the close of the prosecution’s case, there is no compelling evidence proving the accused committed an offence, he or she could be acquitted.

The couple, who had left London in 2007 to live in South Africa, had been arrested in March 2008 on allegations that they had fraudulently misrepresented their financial position to Investec Bank, defrauding the bank in the process.

But, although regional magistrate Renier Boshoff said that, “This court is of the opinion the fraud was never proved,” and although he closed the state’s case for it on 23 February, he took almost three years to do it.

And the last 34 months have been “pure, unadulterated hell for me,” said Goldberg this week.

And the hell is not yet over: because Goldberg and Reed have been extradited to England but have been said by the state to be a “flight risk”, they have to remain in custody in the awaiting trial sections of Johannesburg prison (Goldberg in Medium A and Reed in the women’s prison) while arrangements are made for the extradition.

“How’s that for part two of this horror story?” Goldberg asked.

“We want to be extradited – we’d do just about anything to get out of here – but while we’re waiting for the minister to sign the papers, we have to remain at Johannesburg prison.

“So I’m a free man. I’m an acquitted person. But, despite everything I’ve been through, I am still, as an awaiting trial prisoner at Sun City, being locked up for 23 hours a day – which is what happens to everyone here.”

Read the full story here.

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About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

One Response to Acquitted of fraud, but UK couple remains behind bars

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