17 June 2024


International Cases

Maila vs. The State

South Africa

23.01.2023

Criminal

Sentencing or punishment is pre-eminently a matter of discretion of the trial court, A court exercising appellate jurisdiction cannot, interfere in the absence of a material misdirection

In present case, the Appellant was convicted of the rape of his 9-year-old niece and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Regional Court. The issues for determination is whether the Appellant was properly convicted on the evidence of a single witness; and whether the trial court correctly admitted the warning statement – which was illegally obtained – and in which he incriminated himself.

The regional Court was correct to accept the evidence of the complainant as satisfactory in all material respects. Thus, the appellant was properly convicted on the evidence of a single witness. With regard to the appellant’s version, the SCA found that there were improbabilities in the appellant’s version in general and, in particular, his alibi. As a result, the evidence, when viewed in its totality and excluding the warning statement of the appellant, proved the appellant’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Consequently, the appeal against the conviction had to fail.

It is trite that sentencing or punishment is pre-eminently a matter of discretion of the trial court. A court exercising appellate jurisdiction cannot, in the absence of a material misdirection by the trial court, approach the question of sentence as if it were the trial court and then substitute the sentence arrived at by it simply because it prefers it. To do so would be to usurp the sentencing discretion of the trial court.

The regional magistrate did not commit any misdirection in imposing the prescribed sentence of life imprisonment. The regional court had regard to the basic triad of sentencing; it noted the following as aggravating circumstances: the Appellant was the complainant’s maternal uncle and in a position of trust – who is ‘supposed to protect and love’ the complainant and not abuse her; and it took into account the seriousness of the offence and the prevalence of rape in the region. There were no compelling and substantial circumstances to justify a lesser sentence. Appeal dismissed.

Tags : Conviction Evidence Credibility

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