Judge blasts cops
MBABANE – High Court judge Qinisile Mabuza yesterday lambasted police officers for torturing suspects during investigations.
The judge addressed the issue when she was meting out sentence to a double-rape convict, Sibonakaliso Lukhele.
Lukhele hails from Mvu-tshini in the Hhohho region. He was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment; 15 years for each count of rape, without the option of a fine.
Effectively, Lukhele will spend 15 years behind bars as both sentences are to run concurrently.
Handing down the sentence, the judge said ever since she started presiding over criminal cases in the year 2010, she has always heard allegations of police torture.
"This is not good and the police should just stop. This also leads to the question of the credibility of the evidence or confession statement.
"This may jeopardise the Crown’s case because evidence which has been obtained under duress is not admissible in court," Judge Mabuza said.
In her judgment, Mabuza said she was very mindful of the fact that the accused told the court he was assaulted by the police. "I have no reason to disbelieve him and even though the police officer denied having done so, I shall take the assault into account when giving sentence," Mabuza continued.
Judge Mabuza stated that it was her view that the police had already given him an earlier punishment instead of leaving it to the courts, whose duty is to punish offenders once they have been found guilty of the offence with which they have been charged.
Lukhele appeared in person as he was unrepresented while crown counsel Stanley Dlamini prosecuted.
He was convicted by Judge Mabuza on June 14, 2012, and he was invited to mitigate on the spot.
He reiterated that he was innocent of the charges against him and thus he had difficulty addressing the court in mitigation.
He asked the court to be lenient in passing sentence as he was still young and had a future ahead of him.
Lukhele claimed he never attended school and that at the time of his arrest, he was employed by Swazi Signs. He claimed he had never been in trouble with the law before.
"I take into account the above factors, especially that he is a first offender and that he was 21 years old at the time he committed the offence," Mabuza held.
The judge continued: "I concede that he is illiterate, but this cannot diminish a sense of knowing what is right and what is wrong; violating minor girls is not acceptable: and this is true whether one is literate or illiterate."
Her Ladyship stated that she had considered and taken into account that rapes perpetrated on children were on the increase and courts must give sentences that send a strong message to would-be offenders to desist from such crimes.
The judge said the girls, who were aged five and 10 respectively, were too young to resist effectively.
Lukhele was arrested in November 2010 after he raped the two young girls on different occasions while at Mvutshini.
The accused asked the court to be lenient with him because, 'I am still young and I have a future ahead of me'. I cant believe it! Two young girls were raped by him and their futures have already been disturbed, yet he has the guts to ask for leniency on those grounds! Unbelievable. The accused asked the court to be lenient because he's a first time offender. What he should have done was to ask for leave of the court to apologise to the respective families of the victims.
Jun 22, 2012, 9:02 AM, Gugu Phiri (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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