No Excuse for Murder – Justice Cheda

“An accused who embarks on criminal conduct cannot hide behind his unfortunate upbringing in order to escape the logical sentences that flow from such conduct.”

This was said by Judge Maphios Cheda when he sentenced Hamutenya Mateiko Bernardo Mateus to an effective 35 years in jail on various convictions, including murder.

Mateus was convicted of housebreaking with intent to steal and theft for which he was sentenced to five years behind bars robbery with aggravating circumstances which got him 10 years behind bars and murder for which he received 25 years’ incarceration.

On the last charge of theft he was sentenced to one-year imprisonment which was suspended for five years on condition he is not convicted of a similar offence during the period of suspension.

It was also ordered that five years of the 10-year sentence run concurrently with the 25-year sentence.

Mateus, 23, pleaded guilty to all charges in the Oshakati High Court on 8 July this year and was accordingly convicted.

His state-funded lawyer Godfrey Bondai submitted in mitigation that Mateus is illiterate and comes from a broken home. His family is in Angola and he was raised by his mother. He has no fixed abode and his youthfulness, pleading guilty and general unsophisticatedness should be mitigating factors, said his defence counsel.

While it is trite law that the personal circumstances of an accused must be considered when a sentence is determined, each and every case should be taken on its own merits, said Acting Judge Cheda.

He said the mitigating factors of Mateus as submitted by his defence were indeed relevant, but in his view not out of the ordinary as they are frequently present in many people of the accused’s age group.

According to the judge there are many young people who have been brought up under single parenthood, but did not choose to embark on a life of crime.

The judge said that a lot of emphasis has been made that the accused lacked sophistication in committing the crimes, in particular after he murdered the deceased he took his money, shoes and a bag in which the deceased always carried his Bible as he was a pastor. He further said that sentencing has always presented some difficulties for most judicial officers as it calls for balancing the interest of society against those of the accused.

He said the common practice is the placement of emphasis on the accused’s personal interest and with very little being attached to the deceased’s untimely and unjustifiable demise and those he left behind. He said that in his view there is a need to allow a victim or hisher relative to express their feelings before sentence is imposed.

The judge said that the assault carried out against the deceased who posed no threat to the accused was to say the least callous, brutal and barbaric.

In fact, the judge said, it left the accused with no drop of humanity in him and he can therefore not escape the natural consequences of his actions despite his youthfulness.

Source : New Era