ConCourt rules against young killer

2013-06-06 13:19
The Constitutional Court (Picture: Sapa)

The Constitutional Court (Picture: Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court on Thursday dismissed a bid by a convicted youth to have his life sentence for murder set aside.

Mandla Trust Mpofu had argued he was a minor at the time he committed the crimes.

The court dismissed Mpofu's appeal against a ruling by the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, which convicted and sentenced him to life imprisonment in 2001 for crimes committed in 1998.

He was found guilty of murder, pointing a firearm, kidnapping, assault, robbery with aggravating circumstances, and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. He has served 13 years of his sentence.

Section 28

In a majority judgment the court found that while Mpofu had raised a constitutional issue, the interests of justice did not favour his being granted leave to appeal.

"... Mr Mpofu failed to establish that the right under section 28 of the Constitution was engaged at all, because he had not shown that he was under the age of 18 at the time of the commission of the offence," reads a media summary on the matter.

Section 28 provides that a child may be imprisoned only as a matter of last resort, and for the shortest possible time.

The fact that the application for leave to appeal was made 10 years after Mpofu was sentenced, and that he failed to explain the reason for the delay, further weakened the interests of justice in granting both the applications for condonation and leave to appeal.

Also, the court found Mpofu did not adequately explain why he brought two previous applications to the Constitutional Court for leave to appeal against his sentence in which the issue was not raised.
The Constitutional Court heard the matter in November.

Mpofu's lawyers argued that the high court had not given due consideration to his age at the time of the offences.

Correct sentence

The National Prosecuting Authority, which opposed the application, agreed that constitutional protection of children was vital and that courts had a duty to act in the best interest of child offenders.

"Nonetheless, these principles do not grant impunity to minors who commit crimes. When imposing punishment, a court must consider the gravity of the offence, the interests of society, as well as mitigating circumstances," it argued.

It held that the sentence imposed on Mpofu was correct.

The Centre for Child Law was admitted as a friend of the court. It told the court the Constitution, and foreign and international law, all afforded child offenders special protection.

"Accordingly, life imprisonment may only be imposed on child offenders in exceptional cases, as a measure of last resort. The trial court failed to apply these principles," it argued.
Read more on:    npa  |  constitutional court  |  judiciary

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