Personal circumstances such as accused being primary caregiver to children considered a mitigating factor while awarding sentence

High Court of South Africa, Kwazulu-Natal Division: A Single Judge Bench of Mbatha, J., mitigated sentence to accused alleged for the offence of murder.

Facts of the case were that the accused killed one person alleging that person to have used witchcraft in order to kill a child. One person, Induna called a meeting and went to find the culprit behind the child’s death. When he returned he disclosed the name of accused due to which the incident leading to the alleged death occurred. The question before Court was whether the belief in witchcraft should still be considered as a mitigating factor where Section 11 of the Bill of Rights recognises that everyone has a right to life.  Court viewed that some of the accused before the Court were educated, having attended high school. Those without a formal education had been exposed to religion.

High Court considered personal circumstances such as the fact that they belong to stable family backgrounds, the breadwinner of their family with some accused were primary caregivers to their children. Thus, accused found to be primary caregivers Court considered Section 28(2) read with Section 28(1)(b) of the Constitution. Accepting the probation officer’s reports and considering all the relevant facts of this case court was persuaded that there were substantial and compelling circumstances justifying Court’s departure from imposing the prescribed minimum sentence for life imprisonment. Therefore, the Court directed the accuses person’s punishment to be mitigated. [State v. Mkhombi Xaba, CC 48 of 2016, dated 03-07-2018]

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