Sakoane chides police and prosecution failures in achieving justice
. . . the chief justice’s comments come after shoddy work in the Nthane murder trial.
CHIEF Justice Sakoane Sakoane has blamed “inefficient and unprofessional” police officers and prosecutors for the acquittals of criminal suspects even if they are not innocent of the charges against them.
Justice Sakoane said the police and prosecutors were vital cogs in the justice delivery system and the police were duty-bound to thoroughly investigate cases before presenting them to the prosecution.
In turn, the prosecution had to present water-tight cases to the courts to secure convictions, failing which judges were compelled to acquit suspects even if they were not necessarily innocent of the charges against them.
Justice Sakoane said this while addressing a judicial workshop in Teyateyaneng, Berea. The workshop, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was aimed at assisting in the implementation of judicial reforms recommended by SADC in 2016 as part of a package of changes required to achieve lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.
“We know that members of the public don’t distinguish between the prosecution and the court sometimes. They believe that once a person is charged and brought to court, the responsibility of ensuring that person is found guilty lies with us judges, but that is contrary to the truth.
“Without an efficient and professional police service, there is no judicial system worth mentioning. It is very important to understand the context in which we operate. We have the police as the first point of entry into the judiciary and then the prosecution. And if the police and prosecutors don’t do their job very well, we are duty bound to acquit people.
“We only follow facts and evidence. So, if the quality of evidence is poor, the law says that we should acquit suspects. This is not a matter of choice, we have to do that. It is therefore very important that we have efficient investigators, efficient prosecutors and knowledgeable judicial officers. We need judicial officers who are efficient, not lazy; who don’t come to work late; who can read the law and update their knowledge,” Justice Sakoane said.
It is not clear whether Justice Sakoane’s comments were in direct response to questions being raised over the mishandling of the Tšeliso Nthane trial which lasted just three days. Even if they weren’t, they still had a bearing on the case as they came just two days after the acquittal.
Judge Palesa Rantara acquitted Mr Nthane over allegations of murdering his truck driver, Kopang Mohapi, on 10 January 2019, in an initially suspected fit of rage incident. The judge ruled the prosecution had failed to put a solid case before her and acquitted Mr Nthane without putting him to his defence.
So shoddy was the police and prosecution’s work that the only two witnesses called by prosecutor Advocate Motene Rafoneke actually helped Mr Nthane’s case than the state’s own against him.
Adv Rafoneke elected not to call a third witness he had lined up saying he would be “of no use to the case”.
No forensic reports were submitted. Not even the investigating officer was present to submit evidence. Adv Motiea Teele, for Mr Nthane did not have to break any sweat to tear the state’s case and achieve the acquittal.