UK's Senior District Judge Howard Riddle ruled Dewani will get a fair trial in South Africa.

UK’s Senior District Judge Howard Riddle ruled Dewani will get a fair trial in South Africa.

Not content with misrepresenting the South African prosecution case and the witnesses against Dewani, Jeremy Vine has crossed a red line in what appears to be a statement misrepresenting the UK’s Senior District Judge and Chief Magistrate.

At 57m32sec of the BBC Panorama programme, Vine says:

In July a British judge ruled that while not yet fit to plead he should return to South Africa where there are no juries to stand trial. He’s appealing.

By reporting his statement in one continuous highly ambiguous thread of the same sentence, Vine appears to be suggesting that it is the judge who made reference to there being “no juries”.  By then referring immediately after that statement with “He’s appealing”, Vine implies that is the ruling Dewani is appealing.

Senior District Judge Howard Riddle made no reference whatsoever to there being “no juries” in South Africa at any time during his judgment in July 2013.  The whole hearing and judgment related to Dewani’s fitness, nothing else.

Here is a full copy of the judgment of July of 2013:

Vine appears to be insinuating that a non-jury system would yield an unfair trial.

UK’s Senior District Judge Howard Riddle ruled in August 2011 that Dewani will get a fair trial in South Africa.

“I have complete confidence in the South African system of justice. I have been provided with a statement from Rodney de Kock, the DPP for the Western Cape Provincial Division of the High Court of South Africa. He has summarised the relevant constitutional rights underpinning the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers and the framework of the constitutional law, particularly as it applies to criminal proceedings. His statement confirms the independence of the courts; the constitutional guarantee of a fair trial; that fair trial rights are enforceable; that the burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt”; and that the court gives reasons for its decisions. The defence has not disputed the fairness of the South African judicial system. “

In his judgment of 10th August 2011, the UK’s Senior District Judge said: “In South Africa any trial of these allegations will be heard by a judge, almost certainly sitting with two lay assessors. The assessors themselves may well be experienced in the law. It is common ground that South Africa provides a fair trial process.


Furthermore, at no point in the hearing that led to the July 2013 judgment did Shrien Dewanis lawyers make any reference to there being “no juries” in South Africa. They had already accepted from previous hearings that Dewani would get a fair trial.

Even the UK High Court’s judgment in March 2012 confirmed Dewani’s lawyers position: “It was not contended that he would not receive a fair trial.


If the UK High Court does not question Dewani getting a fair trial, if the UK’s Senior District Judge rules he will get a fair trial, and if Dewani’s own lawyers conceded back in 2011 that he will get a fair trial and the UK High Court acknowledged that, on what basis and qualification is a mere TV Presenter attempting to insinuate otherwise with this rather cheap argument of “no juries”?

At 57m53sec on the Panorama programme, Vine reveals his bias further by asking a leading question to his so-called expert Jim Fraser “If you were him, would you go anywhere near South Africa?”, to which Fraser replies “I wouldnt, not given the quality of the investigation we have seen by the South African police.”

The fact that this staged question and answer is placed at the end of the programme, gives away the real motive of the makers – to try to falsely justify Shrien Dewani’s attempt to avoid standing trial and explaining the evidence against him.

If the investigation is as bad as Vine and Fraser portray, it would be a walk in the park for Dewani’s lawyers to rebut it in a court room before a judge. Why would they refuse to take that opportunity if the prosecution case was so flimsy, as they claim?

Dewani appealed on grounds of fitness to plead, nothing to do with juries or no juries and nothing to do with the quality of the police investigation.

The reality is juries are prone to influence by media and politicians. Thats precisely why the judge in the recent Nigella Lawson case  had to warn a UK jury to discard public comments about her by the Prime Minister David Cameron. Juries do not need to give reasons or explanations for their verdict, they simply pronounce guilty or not guilty and that is it.

Whereas a Judge is required by law in both the UK and South Africa to detail the applicable statutory laws and case law, he is required to explain his assessment of the evidence, and he is required to give fully detailed reasons for his verdict and publish it all.

In any event, on 31 January 2014, the High Court dismissed Shrien Dewani’s appeal (which Jeremy Vine falsely tweeted as a fight in court instigated by the SA Authorities) and ordered his extradition. The court said the interests of justice require expeditious trial in a murder case, now without further delay. It again confirmed the fairness of the South African judicial system. See the judgment here: http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/media/judgments/2014/government-of-the-republic-of-south-africa-v-dewani

However, the argument about the Panorama programme and Jeremy Vine here is not about systems of juries v judges. The point here is Jeremy Vine appears to have misrepresented the Senior District Judge Howard Riddle to millions of viewers on prime time BBC TV.

He should clarify the comments he made on Panorama immediately.



  1. Very well argued. Many democratic “civilised” countries don’t use a jury system, and in most countries that do it is reserved for very serious cases. In South Africa’s case, juries were abolished in 1969 due to the colour, education and financial disparities sectioning the population which makes jury selection extremely problematical and ultimately would lead to some extremely unfair and bizarre verdicts.

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