IN THE HIGH COURT OF LESOTHO
In the matter of:
Review Case No. 161/2003 C. R. No. 13/2003
Review Order No. 19/2003 In Maseru District
ORDER ON REVIEW
(27th October 2003)
I have to repeat what I said in R v Motanyane Motanyane R/O No.8/2002, 11th November 2003, about sentences in traffic offences where death has occurred.
This I have to do in order to disabuse learned magistrates, with all the humility, that where a death occurs due to negligence under common law or contravention of Road Traffic Act No.8 of 1981 it does not make that death less serious. Death of a human being is a serious thing because human life retains a value and sanctity such as we cannot measure. This must be demonstrated at all times. It does not if
sentences meted out by Courts are perceived to be too lenient and outrageous.
I said in Motanyane case (supra):
"I clearly found fault with the learned magistrate's sentence on the Accused. Accused was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment with an option of a fine, the whole of which was suspended. This sentence was imposed merely because the Accused was first offender and had shown remorse and nothing more.
Ranged against this was the learned magistrate's own finding that this traffic offences are rampant. Indeed the Accused's negligence seemed to be gross taking into account the terrain and that a pedestrian was just knocked off without any reason. The serious injury on the complainant suggested that the vehicle was being driven hard or with speed."
In the present case the learned magistrate found that:
"The vehicle was moving at a high speed. PW 1 was near the deceased. The vehicle came straight to deceased and hit him through him outside the road. It passed and stopped some 30 paces in front."
Deceased in the present case had been waiving at the vehicle to ask it to stop for his conveyance.
In this case the learned magistrate suspends what would have become a reasonable sentence thus making it too lenient (by suspending the whole of it). This is unacceptable. It sends a wrong signal to traffic
offender even in serious cases.
It makes sense to take the personal circumstances of the accused including his attitude after the event such as he showed remorse. Again is the fact that the Accused was a first offender. This should not however be exaggerated to outweigh the circumstance surrounding or that have caused the occurrence of the event itself. Specifically, in this case, the Accused drove at high speed and he was non observant and was consequently grossly negligent.
While acknowledging that the presiding officer has a discretion in matter of sentence this Court be carried to absurdity in its result. Nor should it be such that it flies in the face of common sense and public policy based on respect to human life.
For above reasons this Court is justified in interfering with the sentence in this case. It has to be varied. See Motanyane's case (supra).
The sentence has to be varied to read:
"Accused is to be imprisoned for a period of two (2) years with an option of a fine of M2,000.00. Half of the sentence is however suspended for a period of three (3) years on condition that that he
does not commit a similar offence. Accused will pay the fine if he chooses within 30 days notice of this Order."
It is perhaps pertinent to indicate that whenever accused are charged with contravening section 90(4) of the Road Traffic Act this should always be read with section 108 of the Act.
27TH OCTOBER, 2003
Copy: The Magistrate Maseru
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