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Ms Thiloshni Ramdeyal

Ramdeyal - JSC interviews - October 2019


Current position: Regional Court Magistrate, Welkom

Date appointed: 2006

Candidate bio:

As a magistrate Ramdeyal has dealt with numerous cases involving sexual violence crimes having served in the dedicated sexual offences court for ten consecutive years.

In 2008 she reportedly handed down the first life sentence from the regional courts in the Free State to 24-year-old Michael Andile Plata, for his part in the gang-rape of a teenager who subsequently contracted HIV-Aids.

Since then she has been consistently handing down life sentences to convicted rapists, including the 2011 case of a pastor who, she found, had abused his position of trust and raped a 12-year-old girl in his congregation.

In her application form she highlighted the special interest she has in child abuse cases and sexual violence cases. Her LLM thesis, entitled Evidentiary and Procedural Aspects of Child Sexual Abuse examined the problems and difficulties which arose when children are victims and witnesses in cases — and measures to overcome these challenges.

Ramdeyal has acted in the Free State Division of the High Court for one term and three weeks in 2017 and a further four weeks in 2018.

In the high court matter of Mantjies v S, Ramdeyal was asked to adjudicate an appeal against a double life sentence imposed by the regional magistrate after the appellant had pleaded guilty and was convicted of two counts of rape of victims aged 14- and 15- years-old.

The appellant argued that the lower court had over-emphasised the seriousness of the offence as the state had not produced a victim impact statement or led evidence regarding any trauma or humiliation alleged by the victims.

Ramdeyal (with Judge Celeste Reinders concurring) held that the accused had been correctly convicted and dismissed the appeal.

Ramdeyal noted the appellant’s use of a knife in the attacks and that the victims had “suffered humiliation during these offences”. She found the circumstances of the case were sufficiently serious so as to warrant the application of the prescribed minimum sentence.

She found that while the victim impact statements and equivalent evidence were “always of assistance to a court”, their absence did “not mean that a court must approach the question of sentence on the footing that there was no psychological harm.”

Fifty-two year-old Ramdeyal completed her B.Proc at the then-University of Durban Westville (now University of KwaZulu-Natal) in 1990 and her LLM in 2005.

After serving her articles she worked as a prosecutor, senior prosecutor and district court magistrate in Durban. In 2006 she was appointed a regional court magistrate in Welkom, a position she currently holds.

October 2019 interview:

October 2019 interview synopsis:

Former regional court magistrate, Thiloshni Ramdeyal, is another judicial candidate who had no hesitation in describing herself to the Judicial Service Commission as a judicial activist.

Asked whether she saw herself as a liberal or a conservative judge she replied: ‘In South Africa, with our constitution, you cannot be conservative. You have to be liberal.’

There is no need for the poor to be deprived of access to justice, she said, ‘and since everyone is equal before the law, we must help the poor and needy and vulnerable.’

Several JSC members questioned the way she had written some judgments, as her ‘style’ might be seen to indicate that she had not considered both sides of a matter. After she described the way she weighed up the evidence and applied her mind to a dispute, one commissioner said ‘I agree with you. You coin it perfectly, but the decision does not seem to be done like that.’ Ramdeyal said she would consider these comments in future, and added that the judgments criticised by the JSC had been written before she had gone on specialised judicial training courses.

As a regional court magistrate in the Free State, she had served on the sexual offences court for ‘many years’. ‘I had a reputation of being the “rape magistrate”.’

From that experience she had concluded that the issue of bail ought to be carefully handled and she would be concerned about giving bail if the accused had previous convictions on serious violent crime.

In her view, the Bail Act ought to be ‘seriously revisited’, because there were aspects of it that did not work.