HIGH COURT OF LESOTHO
by the Hon. Sir Peter Allen on the 5th day of August 1987
appellants were convicted on their on pleas on 24 April 1987 by a
magistrate second class at Leribe of the offence of common
"They were each sentenced to imprisonment for six months.
appealed against their sentences. They cannot appeal against their
convictions since they pleaded guilty but Mr. Ramodibedi,
representing them in these appeals, asked the Court to review their
convictions on the grounds that no offence was revealed from
facts related to the lower court by the prosecutor.
that the facts stated are rather sketchy and that the magistrate
ought to have asked the prosecutor to expand them but,
the offence of common theft is a simple straightforward crime that is
easily understood by most people.
given reveal that the complainant was a miner from Johannesburg who
had come home on leave. He travelled by bus to Phatsoe
District and when he got off the bus he left his bag containing
clothing and documents at the bus stop and went into
not a very sensible thing to do and so not surprisingly the bag had
gone when he came out of the cafe. The bag and some of
was later found in the possession of the appellants. The prosecutor
did not explain where the appellants were so found
nor on What date.
More detailed facts ought to have been given or required.
the appellants were charged with stealing the property and they each
pleaded guilty. Mr. Ramodibedi suggested that they
might have come
into innocent possession of that property but the appellants at no
time claimed this to be so; They had three opportunities
to make some
sort of explanation or excuse for their conduct but they did not try
to do so. First, when the charge was read and
explained to them they
immediately admitted their guilt, whereas they could have denied it
or claimed innocent possession of the
goods. Second, after the
prosecutor read out the facts in the case they were asked if they
agreed to those facts and they each
accepted the prosecutor's version
without adding or explaining anything.
after conviction they were asked to speak in mitigation and they
merely asked for Leniency. Again no denial or explanation
in what was a simple offence which they clearly understood.
satisfied that the appellants were well aware of the charge against
them and that they, freely admitted stealing the property.
Consequently I can see no good reason to interfere with the
convictions and I shall not do so.
regard to the appeal against sentences. Mr Ramodibedi submitted that
the magistrate did not obtain, sufficient information
appellants before sentencing them. The first appellant described
himself as the "sole bread-winner" and added
mother was old and his sisters were at school. The second appellant
merely stated that nobody looks after his parents'
cattle. Perhaps he
meant that there would be nobody to look after them if he went to
prison. But he did not say that.
Ramodibedi thought that information as to whether the appellants were
married and the state of their health should have been
it is up to the convicted accused to decide what they wish to say in
mitigation. Sometimes they choose to remain
I do not
think that an accused should be cross-examined about such matters. He
is not required to give his life history. It might
be necessary or helpful for a particular question to be put to an
accused at this point, e.g. about his age or
whether he goes to
school or what work he does; but this is a matter for the discretion
and common sense of the magistrate in any
where such information is relevant.
these two young appellants said it can be taken that they are
unmarried and, whatever work; they do, it cannot excuse
the theft of
the complainant's property.
of the appellants had previous convictions, the property was mostly
recovered and they pleaded guilty and so saved the time
of the court
and police. They are also young men in their early twenties. For all
these reasons the court could properly exercise
magistrate did consider these matters and she also felt that people
travelling from the mines were easy victims for
thieves and that this
particular offence was serious enough to warrant the sentence which
that the sentences should have been custodial in this case as I do
not think that fines would have been appropriate. Thieves
taught a short sharp lesson right at the start of their careers in
theft, so as to discourage them from repeating
Although I would have imposed a rather more lenient prison sentence
myself in this instance, I cannot hold that the
magistrate was wrong
and I am thus not prepared to interfere with the sentences passed.
these appeals against sentence are dismissed
Thetsane for the Crown
Ramodibedi for the Appellants
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