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Thalita Susanna Cloete & Two Others v The State (19 December 2019)

12 March 2020

Criminal Appeal Case Number : A 106/2019

High Court: Free State Division, Bloemfontein

Date of judgment: 19 December 2019

Judge: Murray AJ

This is an appeal of a criminal prosecution of three individuals for various offences relating to the transportation and keeping of cheetah and lion cubs which are listed threatened or protected species under the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA). The judge summarised the issues as follows:

“The problems that led to the charges against the Appellants were that Appellant 2 did not obtain transport permits prior to transporting the
cubs to the veterinary surgeon, that Appellant 1 did not have a permit to keep wild animals on the premises, and that Appellants 2 and 3 failed to keep the cubs on the farm designated for their lion and cheetah farming enterprise, and allegedly failed to report the births and deaths of the cubs to the Department of Environmental Affairs within five working days as required.”

In the High Court, the three accused relied on the defences of impossibility and necessity, arguing that the unlawufl actions they had taken were as a result of an emergency situation.  The court considered whether the failure of the accused to comply with NEMBA and the Free State Nature Conservation Ordinance was justified.

The Court held that the appeal against the convictions and sentences of the Appellants succeeded, and the order of the Regional Court was set aside with costs.

Read the judgment here.