MASERU — A lawyer who is representing one of two magistrates convicted for defeating the ends of justice this week slammed the High Court for neglecting its supervisory role.
Advocate Motiea Teele KC, and Advocate Karabo Mohau KC, made submissions on behalf of the accused on Tuesday before Justice ’Maseshophe Hlajoane.
The two women magistrates, ’Mampai Lesupi, 35, and Itumeleng Letsika, 38, were convicted by the High Court last week.
Sentence will be passed on October 25.
The two were accused of tampering with court records to give the impression that a case against one Stephen Dlamini who was facing a charge of fraud had been withdrawn.
Dlamini had been sentenced for defrauding the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) of M2.4 million through his girlfriend who was then working in the authority’s procurement section.
Teele made the remarks while reacting to submissions by crown counsel Advocate Quido Penzhorn SC.
“The High Court is the appellate arm of the magistrates which should play an advisory role by way of reviewing cases from magistrates.
“One of the primary duties of the High Court is way of appeal and review, regrettably that role has been non-existent,” Teele said.
Penzhorn urged the court to pass a deterrent sentence which would send a message to other magistrates that they should not abuse their positions of trust.
He submitted that the accused were judicial officers who used their position of trust to subvert the law.
But Teele submitted that Lesotho should not be compared with South Africa because it was a small jurisdiction with about 1.8 million people.
“The accused are not part of the whole which is South Africa, we should benefit from the fact that this crime of defeating the ends of justice is not rampant in Lesotho.”
He urged the court to impose a non-custodial sentence.
Teele said the defence team was in no way suggesting that the offence was not serious but were merely appealing that their clients should be given a second chance.
He said the court should impose a sentence that will not break his client but that will give her an opportunity to move on with life as she was still young.
He asked the court to blend justice with mercy and consider the personal circumstances of the convict together with the interest of the society.
Teele pointed out that the conviction marks the end of Lesupi’s career as she will no longer be allowed to practise law.
He said that the charges had been hanging over Lesupi’s head for five years resulting in anxiety taking a toll on her life, health and family.
Letsika’s legal representative, Advocate Karabo Mohau, submitted that Letsika deserves the court’s mercy as she is not a lost cause but needs an opportunity to make amends.