Bail for taxi disaster driver

08 September 2010 - 01:52 By NASHIRA DAVIDS

Taxi driver Jacob Humphreys became a free man - for now - after payment of R20000 in bail at the Blue Downs Magistrate's Court yesterday.

Humphreys is the taxi driver involved in last month's Blackheath level-crossing tragedy near Cape Town, where the taxi was hit by a train. Ten of his 14 child passengers lost their lives.

In contrast to his first court appearance, Humphreys was calm and dressed in a suit and tie.

Minutes after magistrate Gerald Hattingh granted him bail, his family made a dash for the court's cashier and paid in cash.

Then he was bundled into a car with dark tinted windows and driven away. The prosecutor, advocate Quinton Appels, told the court the state did not oppose bail. He said he had met the families of all 14 children and their lawyer, Yvette Isaacs.

"I asked their opinions regarding bail as members of the community who have a special interest in the matter. They were all against it . I explained that my task as an official of the court is not just to take the feelings of the parents into account but that I had to take other factors into consideration," Appels said.

One factor in the 55-year-old driver's favour was that he was not a flight risk. He did not have a passport, had been living at the same address for 26 years and did not have a criminal record.

Bail conditions were agreed on by Appels and Humphreys's legal representatives, advocate William Fischer and attorney Anver Titus.

Fischer then objected to the restriction on his client, who may not "directly or indirectly be involved in the public transportation of passengers, school children or adults", until the case was over.

"He needs an income and I understand that this is his only income," said Fischer.

"We don't want to punish him and his family." He would have to pay for legal representation.

But Appels said Humphreys had a spaza shop at home. He also said the Western Cape transport department intended launching an application to strip him of his licence to transport passengers.

It was agreed finally that he could hire someone to drive his taxi, but not get behind the wheel himself.

He has to report every Tuesday at the Kleinvlei police station, where his daughter, Angela, works as a police officer.

Families of the crash victims were upset at Humphreys getting bail. "Obviously the families are angry," said Isaacs. They wanted bail to be denied, but she and the prosecutor had explained bail proceedings to the families.