LIFE IMPRISONMENT FOR YOUTHFULL OFFENDER

S v VANANDA 2016 (1) SACR 592 (WCC)

Sentence — Life imprisonment — When appropriate — Young offender displaying propensity to commit violent crimes by brazenly breaking into home of frail, elderly man and strangling him — Life imprisonment not shockingly inappropriate.

The appellant, who was 21 years of age at the time of the offences, was convicted in a regional magistrates’ court of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances. The two counts were taken together for the purpose of sentence and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. On the day the offences were committed the appellant was being transported in a police vehicle from Pollsmoor Prison to a court for an unrelated court appearance. He managed to escape from the police van and shortly afterwards, in broad daylight, broke into the house of the deceased, a frail 74-year-old man who suffered from diabetes. He strangled him, apparently during a struggle, and made off with some of the deceased’s property.

It appeared from a probation officer’s report that the appellant was very young when his mother died and he was placed in the care of his grandmother. He left school early, became involved with the wrong friends and took up drugs. He had several previous convictions for housebreaking and theft committed whilst he was still young. He had inter alia received a suspended sentence coupled with community service and a sentence of direct imprisonment. In February 2004 he was convicted of murder, housebreaking with intent to rob and robbery, and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. He was sentenced to twelve, eight, and four years’ imprisonment, respectively, for those offences.

In the present proceedings he appealed against both conviction and sentence for murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances. After dismissing the appeal against the conviction on the evidence, the court considered the merits of the appeal against the sentence.

Held, that the appellant showed a clear propensity to commit offences associated with serious violence. The murder and aggravated robbery were committed within a short space of time after his escape from lawful custody, when he had had enough time to weigh up his actions before entering the deceased’s home. His conduct illustrated extreme brazenness in entering the house through a window which was visible from the road in broad daylight. The courts had repeatedly held that society demanded that persons who made themselves guilty of offences of this nature had to be severely dealt with. Given the facts and circumstances, the sentence of life imprisonment was not shockingly inappropriate or disproportionate and the appeal against the sentence accordingly had to be dismissed.

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