By Bahle Gama
A 32-year-old man has been sentenced to 15 years with an option of a fine of E15 000 after being found guilty of being in possession of 363kg of dagga.
Sicelo Hlophe of Luhlangotsini appeared before Senior Magistrate Sifiso Vilakati after being nabbed with the dagga and was charged with contravening Section 12 (1) (a) as read with Section 12 (1) (c) of the Pharmacy Act No 31 of 1929 as amended.
Hlophe was arrested at Ngwenya Border Post while driving a silver-grey Toyota Hilux. Through the representation of his attorney, he told the court that he has two minor children who are dependent on him for support.
“We humbly plead with the court to take into account the remorsefulness of the accused by hiring an attorney to assist him,” said the lawyer.
The lawyer pleaded with the court to be considerate in the sentencing of Hlophe in that he is not put out of pocket.
“A sentencing that will balance the scales in looking at his averted circumstances whereby the user of the contrapuntal would have been affected. There has been no evidence led with respect to the accused being a subsequent offender, he is a first-time offender, and may the court exercise its discretion and give the option of a fine,” he said.
In handing down the sentence, Vilakati said despite having pleaded guilty to the offence, hired an attorney and did not waste the court’s time, it was however imperative that a message be passed to future and other offenders contemplating committing a similar offence.
“It is the duty of the court to send a strong message out to deter the accused and other would-be offenders from engaging in such unlawful activities,” said Vilakati.
The Senior Magistrate further stated that the offence was a statutory one and according to the Pharmacy Act, the accused is a first-time offender and was entitled to be given the option of a fine. Hlophe was therefore sentenced to 15 years, however, E5 000 or five years was suspended for three years on condition that he is not found to have committed a similar offence during the period of suspension.
His E3 000 bail amount was ordered to be converted into part of the fine amount and the dagga would be forfeited to the state to be destroyed.
The attorney further applied for the release of the vehicle which Hlophe was nabbed driving, which the court granted with immediate effect.
By Bahle Gama