They were forced to be gangsters - lawyer argues for merciful sentence

2015-06-17 15:57

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Cape Town - "They were forced to be a part of the gangs because it was the only way they could survive."

These were the words of defence lawyer, Johan van Aswegen, to the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday, as he argued for a "merciful" sentence for his four clients, who were found guilty of killing two men last year.

Isadore Links, Henwill Wolhuter, Clayton Swartz (the leader) and Jerome Bosman belonged to the Young Red Criminals gang in Worcester and were marked with 'YRC' tattoos. They will be sentenced on Thursday.

The four men were recently convicted of charges including murder, dealing in methamphetamine (tik) and possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.

Mitchell Lakay was shot dead along the R43 road between Worcester and Villiersdorp in January 2014. They also killed Deswill Coetzee by shooting and stoning him. The gang members have been in custody since February 2014.

On Wednesday morning, the court heard about their personal circumstances. They were between 24 and 26 years old, dropped out of school before matric and had few sources of income. Three of them have children to support.

All but Bosman have previous convictions for crimes including drug possession.

“They grew up in a society where they never had a real chance at life,” Van Aswegen said.

He said gang violence was rife and a long-standing problem in Worcester, where residents are often not able to move from area to area without some form of protection.

Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe said the men should surely have known that taking someone’s life was the ultimate crime and injustice.

The lawyer replied that the men did not have a history of violence.

He said the murders related to tik that his clients had been unable to recover, and that they had subsequently “got painted into corners”.

He said Swartz never fired the shots and his involvement was to give instructions to assassinate the victims, and try and cover up the crimes.

Despite being found guilty of acting in common purpose, Bosman’s role was, in his eyes, “very, very small”.

“He had no participation in any events before going out to the site of the murder at the so-called gang house,” the lawyer argued.

He believed Bosman’s sentence should reflect this role.

“Punish them because they have committed terrible crimes but punish them in such a way that they are not left without hope. Leave them with the hope of rehabilitation.”

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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