Francistown High Court Judge, Terrence Rranowane, last week set aside a ten-year-jail sentence and ordered a re-retrial for two Serowe men who are facing two counts of robbery.
The accused, Jomo Tape and Keatlaretse Kwati, were both convicted and sentenced by the Serowe Magistrate Court on 22 March, 2010.
They then appealed to the High Court, complaining that they were never given a chance to take pleas to the charges during the case proceedings by the trying Magistrate.
According to the appellants, their charges were read by the prosecutor and explained to them in Setswana and pleas were reserved. They were later convicted and sentenced after several mention dates in 2010, without any of them taking a plea.
Delivering judgment, Rrannowane ruled in favour of the appellants saying that the record of court proceedings clearly shows that none of the appellants were ever made to plead. He brought to the court’s attention that the law regarding failure of the trial court to take an accused’s plea before trial renders the trial a nullity. He added that failure to take a plea vitiates the entire trial proceedings.
“In this case, the conviction is quashed and the sentence of 10 years imprisonment is set aside. It is ordered that the appellants be tried before a different Magistrate in Serowe and in the event that they are convicted, the time they spent in custody in relation to this case be taken into account,” the Judge said.
Kenneth Dick of the Directorate of Public Prosecution represented the state while the appellants were not represented.