Dagga trial stalled over live streaming rights

31 July 2017 - 14:21 By Katharine Child
JOINT ACTION'The Dagga Couple', Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, go to the Pretoria High Court today in their bid to make dagga legal in South Africa.
JOINT ACTION'The Dagga Couple', Julian Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke, go to the Pretoria High Court today in their bid to make dagga legal in South Africa.
Image: Alaister Russell

The trial to legalise dagga‚ seven years in the making‚ has been postponed until Tuesday because the state and defendants Doctors for Life do not want the case live-streamed.

The “dagga couple' Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke are taking seven government departments to court in a bid to legalise dagga. The eighth defendant in the case is Doctors for Life‚ a Christian doctors group headquartered in the USA‚ who applied to be part of the case.

The Constitutional hearing will be heard in the Pretoria High Court for a month.

Clarke and Stobbs asked two months ago to have the case live-streamed and made freely available to any media house as well as broadcast on their website Fields of Green For All.

Should the pair lose this case to legalise dagga‚ they will face criminal charges for possession of dagga after being arrested in their house in 2010‚ where they were growing large amounts of cannabis.

Permission to live stream the case was granted on Friday with strict conditions. But the state and Doctors for Life have opposed this.

Doctors for Life spokesman Johann Claassen said objection is because the people applying to broadcast the case are the plaintiffs in the case and are not neutral as a media house would be.

He said the state don't want a precedent set allowing any plaintiff to broadcast their own trial and even make money off the material. They fear that the case could set a precedent in which an alleged murderer in a criminal case could live stream their trial and gain public support‚ he explained.

Doctors for Life lawyer Helene Davidtsz said “Doctors for Life are concerned less about the live stream‚ but [ are worried] about the use of material after the fact”. She said clips from the trial could be taken out of context and re-used.

“There has been two months of correspondence on this issue between the plaintiffs‚ the state and Doctors for Life.” She said the pair do not fall under the Broadcasting Act as a media house applying to film a court cause would. Stobbs admits that a publicly available feed would allow anyone to take clips of the case and use them out context.

But he says people who support the legalisation of dagga or those opposed could equally misuse the material. “That's what putting it in the public domain means.” The case resumes on Tuesday and a judgment is expected on whether a live stream can go ahead. Stobbs said: “The show will go on. We will have our day in court.”

Anti-dagga protesters from KwaZulu-Natal‚ who are staying in a Christian rehab centre at the Kwasizabantu mission‚ stood outside court saying “dagga kills”. Many said they became drug addicts after first using dagga as teenagers. The protestors called it “a gateway drug” claiming it led to their own heavier drug use with deadly drugs like heroin.

When one protestor shouted “dagga causes rapists”‚ Stobbs replied “dagga causes happiness”.

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