Botswana drops case against British journalist

The trial of Caitlin Davies is cancelled, but she wanted her day in court, writes Clare Garner

CAITLIN DAVIES, the elder daughter of the celebrated journalist Hunter Davies, was expecting a long trial with a possible two-year prison sentence at the end of it. Instead, the case against her was dramatically dropped on the first day of the proceedings.

The Attorney General of Botswana unexpectedly intervened and yesterday decreed that the case be thrown out because of lack of sufficient evidence. Ms Davies, 34, had been charged with publishing "a false report ... which was likely to cause fear and alarm to the public" during her editorship of the Okavango Observer, a local newspaper in Botswana, where she has lived for the past eight years.

The dismissal of the case came as a great relief to her family. Yesterday was her mother Margaret's 60th birthday. "There ouldn't be a better birthday present," said Mr Davies, who last week wrote about the impending case in The Independent.

He added that in some ways his daughter was disappointed that the case had been dropped. "There was part of her that wanted to go through with it and hear the whole case in open court. She didn't want to go to prison, but she would have liked to hear what the evidence was. Now she'll never know."

The offending article featured in her first issue as editor of the Okavango Observer, which subsequently closed due to financial difficulties. On 29 September 1995, she ran a front-page story about a gang of youths terrorising Maun, thehome village of her husband, Ronald Ridge. She had asked a reporter to get the reaction of the police to the story, but the local station commander could neither confirm nor deny the incidents, as nothing had been reported to the police.

On 19 January 1996, a CID officer arrested Ms Davies, saying that the article had breached Section 59 of the Penal Code, which apparently had never been invoked before. The case went quiet for about a year and everyone presumed it had been dropped. Then, in December 1997, Ms Davies was summoned to court and the trial was set for 25 May 1998.

No one understands why the case was resurrected, although newspapers in Botswana and South Africa which took up her cause suggested in leaders that the real problem was that Ms Davies had gone on to produce a series of articles drawing attention to the government's unpopular removal of indigenous bushmen from the Kalahari. Mr Ridge maintains that the government could not cope with someone as young as his wife "embarrassing them in front of the world".

Ms Davies faxed the statement from the Attorney General to her parents as soon as she heard the news yesterday afternoon. It read: "By Virtue of the powers vested in me by section 51(3)(c) of the Constitution of the Republic of Botswana and sections 10 and 11 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act. I, Phandu Tombola Chaha Skelemani, Attorney General of Botswana, having read the statements in the criminal docket CR NO 91/12/95 from Maun and being satisfied that there is not sufficient evidence to prosecute, do hereby stop and discontinue all criminal proceedings against Caitlin Davies ..." The statement is dated 8 May 1998.

While Mrs Davies was fairly confident that her daughter would get off, Mr Davies was less sure. "I thought there could be something we don't understand," he said. "Although the law is based on British law, some parts are slightly different."

On a visit to Botswana earlier this month Mr Davies had met his daughter's lawyer, who had tried to reassure him. "He said: `I'm sure you've brought her up to tell the truth so there's nothing to worry about'," Mr Davies said yesterday. "I thought he was just being hopeful."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
videoJapanese prepare for the afterlife by testing out coffins
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford attends Blade Runner at Target Presents AFI's Night at the Movies at ArcLight Cinemas on 24 April, 2013 in Hollywood, California
film... but Ridley Scott won't direct
Sport
Hughes is hit by a bouncer from Sean Abbott
cricketStephen Brenkley on batsman's tragic flaw that led to critical injury
Sport
Dejected England players applaud the fans following their team's 3-0 defeat
football

Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Supervisor / Housewares / Furniture

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital