Dagga legalisation trial can be live-streamed

01 August 2017 - 15:25 By Katharine Child
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

The dagga trial can be televised… for now.

Johannesburg residents Jules Stobbs and Myrtle Clarke‚ nicknamed the Dagga couple‚ have taken seven state departments to court to force the legalisation of dagga. They did so after being charged with possession and dealing in dagga in 2010.

Doctors for Life, a South Africa-based conservative group with international chapters, applied to join the case as defendants.

Finally after seven years‚ the case was to begin on Monday.

But both the state and Doctors for Life have appealed the order that the dagga couple can live-stream the trial to website Fields of Green for All unedited.

On Tuesday afternoon‚ Judge Natu Ranchod ruled that the state and Doctors for Life's appeal to stop live-streaming of the trial by the plaintiffs could not be granted.

He ruled it had no chance of success. An appeal needs a chance of success for it to be granted.

This means the case can start and live-streaming can go ahead.

Last Friday‚ Ranchod agreed that Fields of Green For All‚ a website associated with Stobbs and Clarke, could live-stream the trial but not edit material after the fact.

This was to accommodate concerns that court material could be taken out of context and used to lobby for dagga‚ a pre-trial objection Doctors for Life had raised.

On Tuesday morning‚ the state and eight defendants argued that Stobbs and Clarke did not have locus standi to broadcast the case as they were not a registered media house.

The state had argued only licensed media houses could broadcast in court.

But Ranchod had pointed out to the state that Section 16 of the Bill if Right allowed "everyone freedom of expression" and the right to "impart information".

Two days in‚ the trial will start for an hour and be live streamed.

However‚ state advocate William Mukhari told the court he was preparing to approach the Supreme Court of appeal to stop the live-stream on Wednesday.

Mukhari said the live-stream ruling was setting a precedent that allows any alleged criminal in a trial to broadcast their own case. The state's appeal to the SCA was expected on Wednesday and it would halt the live-stream of the trial.

During arguments‚ Mukhari didn’t answer repeated questions from the judge on what the difference was between a media house live-streaming a trial and the plaintiffs doing so.

Mukhari has also said in court and legal papers that the state objected to news website Daily Maverick's live-streaming the trial because it had featured an article with a pro-dagga stance.