Two young men breathed a sigh of relief this week when the Customary Court of Appeal upheld a lenient sentence in a marijuana case which the cops messed up.
The court were unable to fix the police’s mistake as the evidence from the initial trial – the confiscated drugs – has already been destroyed.
Acting on a tip-off, in July last year Maun police swooped on Shadrack Ramasu and Tiro Johannes at Master’s Valley bar in Thito ward.
Caught with 690.2 grams of dagga, the duo were duly arrested. However, although they were charged with illegal possession of drugs, the weight was recorded as being less than 60 grams – a crime that carries a possible sentence of three years in prison or a P20, 000 fine.
Had they been charged with the right amount, the potential punishment would have been much more severe – ten years jail time or a P500, 000 fine.
The matter was originally heard on 27 November at Maun Customary Court where both Ramasu and Johannes pleaded guilty.
They were fined P1, 000 and given two months to pay, failure to do so carrying a six-month prison term.
At the end of the case, the cops were ordered to burn the drugs.
Reassessing the matter this week, the Appeal Court ruefully noted this lack of evidence meant there was no chance of a retrial.
“You are so lucky. Had this matter been taken to Magistrate Court you’d have been in jail as we speak,” presiding Judge, Kgosi Christopher Masunga told the two men.
Turning his ire on the police, Masunga added, “Taking the case for retrial means starting everything afresh and you cannot rely on evidence produced in previous court because everything will be starting from the very beginning. You have to produce the marijuana as evidence and what was said in the previous court will not count, but that evidence has been destroyed.”
Bashing the boys in blue further, the unimpressed Kgosi said their handling of the case showed a lack of seriousness.
“This goes to show how careless the junior officers are when they handle cases and the senior officers allow this to pass through without checking whether or not the suspects are charged accordingly!” blasted Masunga
Although the police admitted their error, court ruled it was too late and thus upheld the previous judgment.
It was not all good news for the suspects, however, as it later emerged Johannes made a huge mistake of his own. It seems he has not paid his P1, 000 fine and thus was arrested in Plapye on Wednesday morning.