Police commissioner fights jail sentence

MASERU — Police Commissioner Malejaka Letooane this week continued her battle to reverse a jail sentence slapped on her for contempt of court three weeks ago.

Letooane was on August 18 sentenced to six months in prison after she ignored summonses to appear in court to give evidence in a car theft case.

The police boss immediately made an urgent application to the High Court seeking a stay of execution.

An interim order was granted on August 22 and a hearing date was set for Monday this week.

However, Letooane’s bid to overturn both conviction and sentence faced serious resistance when the hearing started this week.

Advocate Haae Phoofolo, who is opposing Letooane’s application, said the commissioner should be behind bars by now.

“She is sentenced and convicted for six months. She is a convict for now,” Phoofolo told the High Court on Tuesday.

Phoofolo said the commissioner’s reasoning was that if a stay of execution was granted that would save her reputation and that of her office.

“By being in contempt of court indeed she has tarnished the image of the police,”Phoofolo argued.

“She should apply for bail pending execution. She does have alternative remedy.”

Letooane made the application for a stay of execution together with the Director of Public Prosecutions Leaba Thetsane.

The application cited Tse’liso Bale, the magistrate who sentenced Letooane, the clerk of court, the attorney-general and Majake Ramorake as the respondents.

Ramorake is facing trial in a car theft case in which Letooane was supposed to give evidence.

Phoofolo this week said the High Court proceedings should be suspended because it was unusual that the DPP would sue the attorney-general.

He said the attorney-general’s and DPP’s offices were one body.

Phoofolo said the DPP was defending the commissioner of police instead of defending the magistrate.

 “The DPP is a chameleon,” he said.

“How can you separate the two?

“The DPP and the magistrate are one and the same thing.”

Phofoolo said reversing the conviction and sentence would set a wrong precedent.

“The proceedings should be nullified. They should be null and void,” he argued.

“She should be in jail until she purges contempt as would happen to any citizen of this country.

“Her only option was to appeal or to apply for review or she should have asked for bail pending execution and not stay of conviction because the warrant of committal had already been issued.”

He added: “There is no procedure. A sentence of a court cannot be suspended.

“It sets a wrong precedent. It is mischievous and misdirected.”

The hearing was full of drama when it started on Monday.

Advocate Mafefooane Moshoeshoe, who was representing Letooane, opened his submissions by telling the court that he had not filed the heads of arguments because his secretary had not prepared them.

This angered the presiding judge, Justice Semapo Peete, who lashed out at Moshoeshoe.

“I don’t like it, this makes me angry,” Justice Peete said.

“I have a health problem . . . I don’t like the counsel that guides the courts.”

Bale and the attorney-general were not represented.

The case was immediately postponed to 1430 hours.

When the hearing resumed after lunch, Phoofolo said it was unusual that the attorney-general and the magistrate were not represented.

“There is no appearance of the attorney-general and the magistrate and it is highly unusual,” Phoofolo said.

“In proceedings in appeal from                the court aquo, the magistrate must               be represented. It is a case of its own kind in my 20 years of practising as a lawyer.”

On Tuesday morning, Moshoeshoe said the High Court was competent to stay execution in civil cases.

“We did not apply for bail because we felt it was not necessary to do so if a stay of execution was granted,” he said.

“She was convicted and sentenced in absentia on the alleged contempt of court in a criminal matter.”

After lunch on Tuesday, Letooane’s game plan changed.

Justice Peete announced that the commissioner had briefed a new legal team to represent her.

He said Advocate Ranale Thoahlane of KEM Chambers had been briefed to represent Letooane in her personal capacity but he did not have the time to prepare papers to present in court.

Justice Peete said Thoahlane had applied for postponement of the case to Monday.

The application was granted.

There were some light moments when Justice Peete rebuked Phoofolo for addressing the court in Sesotho. 

“Who are you trying to impress — me or those people behind you (gallery)?”

Phoofolo said he was only trying to express himself in a language he was comfortable with.

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