High Court overturns sex assault verdict

MASERU —  The High Court has overturned a judgment by a Maseru magistrate who acquitted a man who was facing charges of sexual assault and robbery.

Ts’epo Letsipa was detained in custody until February 24 for mitigation.

High Court judge Justice Nthomeng Majara overturned an earlier verdict by the magistrates’ court that found Letsipa not guilty.

Letsipa was charged in the Maseru Magistrates’ Court for allegedly sexually abusing an American Peace Corps volunteer and robbing her of her wallet containing M80 and a cell phone.

The incident happened near Pioneer Mall on March 20, 2010.

The complainant, whose identity we have withheld to protect her dignity, told Magistrate ‘Makopano Taole that Letsipa was in the company of another man when he attacked her.

She said Letsipa dragged her into nearby bushes where he sexually assaulted her by inserting his manhood into her mouth.

The complainant said Letsipa also inserted his finger into her private parts.

Magistrate Taole however acquitted Letsipa on April 19 last year arguing the prosecution’s evidence was not admissible since the identikit was conducted outside Lesotho.

She said the complainant went to Pretoria in pursuit of criminal investigations without the assistance of Lesotho police.

Letsipa was however hauled before the High Court after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) appealed against the ruling by Magistrate Taole.

Crown counsel Advocate Motiea Teele KC told the High Court on Monday that the magistrate erred when she rejected the identikit.

He submitted that the complainant had ample time and opportunity to identify Letsipa during the attack and this made it easier for her to identify the accused during parade.

But defence lawyer Advocate Chris Lephuthing submitted that no reasons were given for failing to arraign a man who had allegedly bought a cell phone and wallet belonging to the complainant from a woman who works at Pioneer Mall.

He said even the recovered articles were not tendered as court exhibits during the trial.

He also argued that the identikit drawn by senior South African police officer, Henrico Pieter Visser, did not look like Letsipa.

Lephuthing added that Letsipa was only identified during a parade after he had been arrested in connection with a different matter.

However, Justice Majara on Monday overturned the not guilty verdict saying Letsipa was “guilty on two counts”.

Justice Majara ruled that the crown had proved its case beyond doubt.

“There is nothing in our law that prevents the production of an identity kit,” she said.

The suggestion that the complainant had no right and authority to carry out her own investigations was baseless, the judge said.

Justice Majara added that it was proper that the complainant sought assistance from an expert in Pretoria to assist her.

She dismissed submissions that such evidence should be deemed inadmissible simply because it was compiled outside Lesotho.

“The participation of the artist from Pretoria was only to make a picture of the suspect on the basis of a description supplied to him by the complainant,” Justice Majara said.

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