MASERU — A Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) soldier will spend the next decade in prison after the Court of Appeal on Friday upheld his two murder convictions reached earlier by the High Court.
Moeketsi Scout had appealed against a High Court judgment in February which found him guilty of the murders of Liqabang Mohlerepe and Mothebesoana Nkoho in Quthing on August 22, 2003.
The High Court had sentenced Scout to 15 years imprisonment for killing Mohlerepe and 12 years for killing Nkoho.
The Court of Appeal however reduced the sentences to 10-year jail terms that will run concurrently.
“The appeal against the convictions on count one and two is dismissed,” said the judgment.
“The sentences on counts one and two are to run concurrently.”
In reducing the sentences Justice John Smalberger who presided over the matter said the High Court had provided no basis for imposing different sentences on two similar offences.
“There is also no apparent reason why she (the High Court judge) drew a distinction between the sentences on counts one and two, when both counts essentially arose from the same somewhat unique and unfortunate set of circumstances,” Justice Smalberger said.
“In my view an appropriate sentence in the circumstances of the present matter would be one of 10 years imprisonment on each count.”
During the High Court trial the prosecution said Scout, Mohlerepe and Nkoho were having drinks at a shebeen near the military base at Ha-Peete in Quthing when the murders happened.
Scout, Mohlerepe and Nkoho were all soldiers based at Ha-Peete, the court heard.
Nkoho was Scout’s immediate supervisor in the army base.
Scout’s defence team had argued that the accused was not mentally stable at the time of committing the crime.
Scout, argued the defence, was under “extreme emotional stress” and had taken excessive alcohol that day.
The defence had also argued that Scout’s stress was caused by Nkoho as he was ill-treating him at work.
However, High Court Judge Nthomeng Majara rejected Scout’s defence after considering the reports by a psychiatrist Dr Shaikh and a clinical psychologist Professor Louw.
Justice Majara decided that Shaikh and Louw’s examinations made it clear that Scout’s cognitive functions were intact.
Scout appealed against the High Court judgment arguing that Majara erred in not acquitting him on murder charges on grounds of non-pathological criminal incapacity.
His lawyer Advocate Koili Ndebele had told the Court of Appeal that even if Scout possessed the necessary criminal capacity when killing the two soldiers, the evidence did not establish an intention on his part to kill.