Judge lashes out at mag­is­trates

Lesotho Times - - News - Tefo Tefo

SE­NIOR High Court judge, Jus­tice Tšeliso Mon­aphathi, on Tues­day this week lashed out at mag­is­trates and the of­fice of the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tions (DPP) for con­tin­u­ally fail­ing to re­spond to re­view ap­pli­ca­tions.

Jus­tice Mon­aphathi was re­mark­ing on a re­view ap­pli­ca­tion in which Mokho­tle Tšepe (18) from Ha-Ra­mon­a­heng, Berea, was seek­ing a re­view and set­ting aside of his con­vic­tion by the Berea Mag­is­trate’s Court in March this year. Tšepe’s lawyer, Hopolang Nathane, told the High Court that there were ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties sur­round­ing his client’s trial and con­vic­tion by Res­i­dent Mag­is­trate Tšeliso Bale on 19 March 2014.

Tšepe was found guilty of rob­bing a Ha-Rakoto busi­ness­man of M600 and to­bacco at his shop on 8 March this year, and sentenced to two years in jail with­out an op­tion of a fine.

Tšepe’s two co-ac­cused had also been slapped with a sim­i­lar sen­tence two days be­fore by the same court.

How­ever, Jus­tice Mon­aphathi re­leased one of Tšepe’s co-ac­cused, Mon­tšo Oliphant, on 3 Novem­ber on re­view after hold­ing that there were ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties sur­round­ing the trial.

Mr Nathane ar­gued his client, Tšepe, should also be set free be­cause his co-ac­cused had been re­leased.

His client, Mr Nathane added, de­served sim­i­lar treat­ment to his co-ac­cused as guar­an­teed by Sec­tion 19 of the Con­sti­tu­tion which pro­vides for equal­ity be­fore the law.

The lawyer fur­ther ar­gued Mr Bale, the DPP’s of­fice and Berea Mag­is­trate’s Court clerk, were served with a re­view ap­pli­ca­tion but did not re­spond.

Jus­tice Mon­aphathi then or­dered the re­lease of Tšepe on the ba­sis of ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties out­lined in his af­fi­davit.

Tšepe al­leges in the af­fi­davit that he ad­mit­ted com­mit­ting the crime after be­ing mis­led by the po­lice to plead guilty in or­der to get a le­nient sen­tence.

How­ever, Jus­tice Mon­aphathi raised con­cern over the “per­sis­tent habit” by the of­fice of the DPP and mag­is­trates of not re­spond­ing to re­view ap­pli­ca­tions filed by con­victs from sub­or­di­nate courts.

“The crown doesn’t ap­pear to de­fend se­ri­ous cases, and the DPP doesn’t ap­pear where he is sup­posed to ap­pear.

“There was another re­view ap­pli­ca­tion in which the plain­tiff al­leged that when he was in a mag­is­trate’s of­fice, a cer­tain po­lice­man peeped through the win­dow and told the mag­is­trate to give him a harsh sen­tence.

“He al­leged that in­deed, he was sentenced ac­cord­ing to the po­lice­man’s ut­ter­ances. But again, nei­ther the mag­is­trate in­volved nor the crown re­sponded to the ap­pli­ca­tion.

“The ques­tion is: where was the pros­e­cu­tor when all this hap­pened?” he asked.

Jus­tice Mon­aphathi fur­ther charged: “You know what those mag­is­trates do at con­fer­ences they at­tend? They al­ways com­plain about the High Court, but look at what is hap­pen­ing.

“The last time I saw an af­fi­davit from a mag­is­trate was ages ago by some­one who is now a judge of the High Court. Mag­is­trates no longer re­spond to cases where they are cited as re­spon­dents.”

After the Crown and Mr Bale failed to de­fend the case, Jus­tice Mon­aphathi set Tšepe free.

Jus­tice tšeliso mon­aphathi

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