PG to Challenge Light Sentence

A purportedly lenient sentence for an attempted murder conviction could return to bite its recipient on the hand.

Britz Hendriks, who was sentenced to a two-year jail term for attempted murder more than three years ago, could face more jail time if an appeal in the Windhoek High Court lodged by the prosecutor general (PG) against his sentence succeeds.

High Court Judges Dave Smuts and Shafimana Uitele directed that the registrar must provide a copy of their review judgment on the matter to the PG for a decision. The review judgment came before the judges more than two and a half years after the sentence and after Hendriks already served his sentence. In the review judgment the judges found that the sentence imposed was far too lenient and not in accordance with justice. Hendriks was convicted of stabbing his girlfriend with a knife on her head and hands.

The judges also lambasted the lengthy delay for the judgment to come up for review.

“The failure to do so fundamentally undermines the administration of justice and may in several instances almost render nugatory the important right of accused persons to have their proceedings timeously reviewed by the High Court. What is entirely unacceptable in this instance is the lengthy delay of two and half years for the transcribed record to be forwarded to this court. The transcribed portion is a mere 38 pages long. What compounds this shocking delay is the absence of any explanation for it,” the judges wrote.

In his appeal judgment, Judge Christi Liebenberg agreed with the criticism levelled against the sentencing magistrate’s failure to see that the judgement was sent for review timeously, as it was not the PG’s duty to secure the transcript for review purposes.

He said that he could not fault the PG’s office for the delay in the review process and as such could not refuse condonation for the late filing of the appeal. Hendrik’s legal representative objected to the late filing of the appeal application.

He further said that while the argument of Ruben Philander, who represented Hendriks, that the prosecutor who represented the State during the trial proposed the sentence which is now complained of, makes the application without merit, it is not the discretion of counsel what sentences should be imposed.

He said that although the proposition made by Hendriks’ lawyer is not without merit, it is not a factor at this stage.

According to Judge Liebenberg he was satisfied the appeal court could arrive at a different sentence as the trial court and the application for leave to appeal against the sentence was granted.

Source : New Era

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