McBride vindicated

South Africa
Robert McBride was arrested in 2006 after crashing his official car on the R511 following a year-end party. Picture: AFP

The State has lost its bid to appeal against the acquittal of former Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride on charges of drunken driving and attempting to obstruct justice.

The High Court in Pretoria ruled on Friday that the State had not raised any question of law that should be considered by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

McBride was arrested in 2006 after crashing his official car on the R511 near the Hartbeespoort Dam following a Christmas party.

Pretoria regional magistrate Peet Johnson in September 2011 sentenced him to five years' imprisonment, but he appealed to the High Court in Pretoria.

Judges Cynthia Pretorius and Lettie Malopa-Setshosa acquitted him in March this year, on the grounds that the State had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, despite McBride's "strange" behaviour.

They also set aside McBride's five-year prison sentence.

The State applied for leave to appeal against their ruling on various technical grounds.

The judges ruled on Friday that the State had not raised any question of law that should be considered by the Supreme Court of Appeal.

McBride from the outset denied being under the influence or leaving the accident scene to evade justice.

He insisted he had appeared drunk at the scene because he suffered from diabetes and might have suffered a head injury.

He alleged the police's Organised Crime Unit (OCU) had coerced and intimidated three of his former colleagues to testify against him and change their original statements exonerating him.

The three testified in the trial that McBride had been heavily under the influence of alcohol and had systematically covered up this fact with their help, but the High Court found the three were liars and the OCU had manipulated their evidence.

On Friday, Pretorius said the State had attacked factual findings and not questions of law.

"Where the three accomplice witnesses were found to be liars, there is no other evidence of the appellant's behaviour before the collision," she said.

"This fact left the State with a motor vehicle collision where the driver was injured, and according to some witnesses, smelt of intoxicating liquor.

"Prof (Antoine) van Gelder's evidence was clear that after he had considered the State witnesses' evidence that all the symptoms observed at the scene could point to some other cause, such as hypoglycemia or concussion, which was not refuted by the State."

McBride said it appeared he was prosecuted because he was a high profile person.

He said he was disappointed about the way in which the case was personalised and that no one had shown any interest in investigating his allegations that the Organised Crime Unit was involved in corruption.

McBride's attorney Jose Nascimento said McBride was not a drinker.

"He is a vindicated man today and hopefully he can get on with his life, because for six years his life was put on hold and he couldn't occupy any public office with the negative publicity propagated during the trial."

-Sapa

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