HEAVY SENTENCE FOR YOUTHFUL OFFENDER NOT LEAVING HOPE FOR LIFE OUTSIDE CRIME

S v BRUINTJIES 2017 (1) SACR 553 (WCC)

 

Child — Sentence — Imprisonment — Long-term imprisonment — Whether appropriate — Sixteen-year-old appellant embarked on shooting spree in tavern to which he had been refused entry — Convicted of murder, two counts of attempted murder and firearm offences — Appellant 18 years old at time of sentencing and sentenced to 19 years’ imprisonment — Such lengthy sentence not leaving appellant with much hope of different life outside of crime — Sentence reduced to 13 years’ imprisonment.

 

The appellant was 16 years old when he committed the offences of murder, two counts of attempted murder and one count each of the possession of a firearm and ammunition. According to the evidence, he had been refused entry to a tavern on account of his age, but nonetheless proceeded to enter the tavern where he embarked on a shooting spree, killing the deceased and injuring two others. By the time he was sentenced he was already 18 years old and the court sentenced him to an effective 19 years’ imprisonment: 10 years for murder; three years for each of the two counts of attempted murder; 10 years for the unlawful possession of a firearm; and three years for the unlawful possession of ammunition. The sentence for the murder was ordered to run concurrently with the other sentences imposed. He appealed against his conviction and sentence but the court dismissed his appeal against the conviction. The state conceded that the 19-year term of imprisonment was too harsh and warranted interference by the court.

Held, that an effective sentence of 19 years’ imprisonment for a first offender, who was 16 years old at the time of the commission of the offences, was startlingly inappropriate. It appeared furthermore that the court a quo did not have regard to the requirement, imposed by s 77(5) of the Child Justice Act 75 of 2008, that the term of imprisonment imposed was to be antedated by the number of days the child had spent in prison or a child and youth centre prior to being sentenced. (Paragraph [27] at 558j–559a.)

Held, further, that the lengthy term of imprisonment imposed visited a punishment on the appellant so long that it did little to allow him to keep the hope of a different life, outside of a world of crime, alive. (Paragraph [30] at 559e–g.)

Held, further, that the state had not proved that the firearm used by the appellant was a semi-automatic pistol as alleged in the charge-sheet and accordingly, the sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment imposed on that count was unduly harsh. (Paragraph [31] at 559g–h.) The court accordingly reduced the sentence to an effective term of 13 years’ imprisonment.

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