Eswatini Daily News
Court Crime National

Former court interpreter sentenced to 9 years for removing a case from the roll

By Bahle Gama

A former court interpreter has been sentenced to nine years in prison for receiving money for removing a dagga case from the register of a Magistrate known to give harsh sentences to another Magistrate who was considered lenient.

Sipho Dlamini reportedly received E2 000 from Dorris Vilakati in return for the removal of a criminal matter from Magistrate Mbatha to Magistrate Dlamini at Pigg’s Peak whereby three suspects were charged with contravening the Pharmacy Act. 

He reportedly told Vilakati that he would switch the case because Magistrate Dlamini was perceived to mete out more lenient sentences than Mbatha in dagga cases. In the premise, Dlamini committed the crime of defeating or obstructing the course of justice. 

He was arrested in 2004 and charged with contravening the POCA and charged as a judicial officer as an interpreter at the Piggs Peak Magistrate Court with his letter of employment dating back to 2002.

Dlamini was convicted of the crime on November 29 and the sentence was handed down on Wednesday by Principal Magistrate Fikile Nhlabatsi. When making its submissions, the crown told the court that Dlamini’s offence was aggravated by the fact that as an officer of the court, he should have known better than to commit the offence, adding that it was aimed at perverting or obstructing the course of criminal justice and the result would have been a miscarriage of justice.

The effects of the offence would have further been the loss of confidence in the administration of justice by the public where stakeholders are found to be corrupt.

“The court should impose a meaningful and deterrent sentence that would send a clear message to would-be offenders and further restore the confidence of the public in our criminal justice system. May the court consider the triad and impose a deterrent sentence to the accused,”
submitted the crown.

Principal Magistrate Nhlabatsi said the purpose of the corruption charge was to bring to book corrupt officials and the offence by Dlamini requires that it is penalized and must relate to the process and penalties of the person sought to be influenced by the giving or offering or paying of a benefit.

“The nature of this offence is a serious one because it is illegal, dishonest unauthorised or selling of information or any other legal obligation that amounts to an abuse of a position of authority. It is serious because it borders on breach of trust a violation of a legal duty,” said Nhlabatsi.

Nhlabatsi said the statement that goes “to whom much is given is expected”, goes true in the easy duty of the accused to act in utmost good faith in the execution of his duty.

She stated that the default, therefore, is frowned upon by the law and justice, especially because it is a default on their own adding that criminal bordering on corruption is rife not only in the country but in the international Terrance and the courts are burdened with a duty to curb
this scourge.

“If our own become part of the scourge, we become a laughingstock and it defeats the ends of justice. It is in that note that the court must do its utmost best to send a strong message to any court official to desist from acting in a corrupt manner,” she said.

She further urged all that have been unintentionally exposed to acts of corruption by its officials to come forth and report because it is time that all be brought to book, because they are there, but have not been reported.

She further stated that the court put into consideration that Dlamini is a first-time offender and has children who are dependent on him as submitted by the defence council and “this will instigate the sentence such that he will pay a fine as opposed to a custodial sentence.”

“The interests of justice in this instance favour retribution as opposed to rehabilitation, failing which court officials will become heroes of corruption,” she continued.

She further referred to the case of Rex vs Mbhekeni Dlamini from 2010 where the facts were similar though the amounts received were different, which she said the court would not depart from it as the accused at the time was sentenced to nine years with an option of a fine of E9 000.

Nhlabatsi said the court would not depict from this except to say the accused person did not appreciate the seriousness of the offence when his ex-colleague was also sentenced.

“It, therefore, means that 12 years later, this court is still burdened with the duty to impose a deterrent sentence to send a strong message to would-be offenders. The accused is therefore sentenced to pay a fine of E10 000 in default of payment nine years imprisonment,” she added.

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