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Chaos at court

Pandemonium broke out at the Hermanus Magistrates’ Court on Monday when assailants armed with knives stabbed two men outside the court building.

Sources believe that the attack might have been gang related.

The two victims were reportedly outside the regional court building near the back entrance when they were attacked by two knife-wielding men after a confrontation broke out.

It is unclear how the assailants managed to smuggle sharp weapons onto the premises.

“One of the men was lying on the ground,” said a member of the public who arrived at the scene after the stabbing took place, “and the other was sitting on a chair. The one on the ground was bleeding badly and it appeared that his injuries were more serious.”

The ambulance that arrived at the scene to transport the victims to hospital was escorted by a police official.

Another member of the public reports that chaos ensued after the stabbing. The suspects reportedly fled in a minibus as police arrived on the scene.

Captain Fadila September, spokesperson for the Hermanus Police, says both victims sustained stab wounds to the back.

She confirmed that two cases of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm were opened.

“We visited the victims in hospital, but they refused to lay charges. They only opened cases later. The suspects are known but no arrests have been made yet,” she told the Hermanus Times on Tuesday.

Members of the legal fraternity say this is not the first attack at court.

In April 2017 the Hermanus Times reported on an incident where magistrate Tammy Lendore was injured when a suspect flung a coffee mug at her while court was in session.

Chief magistrate LP le Roux, who has been at the court since 2001, also says this is not the first attack at court.

“Years ago,” he stated, “there was another attack at court. Once a man slit his wrists with a blade in front of me.”

Le Roux says during Monday’s chaos five man ran through his office. “I opened the door to let some fresh air in as my office does not have airconditioning. The men jumped over the fence and ran through my office. I don’t know if they had any weapons, but it came as quite a shock to see them,” he said.

He describes conditions at court as “extremely dangerous” due to a lack of security measures.

“Security measures need to be stepped up. There are only security guards who search the public. Proper x-ray machines need to be installed as that is the best way to pick up if somebody is carrying a weapon,” Le Roux stated.

He added that a number of letters raising concerns about conditions at Hermanus Magistrates’ Court have been sent to the Department of Justice, to no avail.

“All we get is empty promises,” he said.

Local attorney Adrian Louw reiterated this.

“Hermanus Magistrates’ Court has been neglected and dealt a cruel blow by the Department of Justice,” Louw stated. “Despite the population growing exponentially, nothing has been done to expand the court buildings or improve conditions at the court.”

He added: “The conditions people – including officials working at the court, witnesses and members of the public – have to face, are horrific.”

Louw believes the dilapidated court building which is more than 50 years old, is no longer suitable.

“The neglect of the court is unacceptable and will lead to further criminal acts.”

Neither the Department of Public Works that is responsible for maintenance of the court building or Department of Justice responded to emails and calls requesting comment on the matter.

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