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War veteran’s sentence slashed to 20 years

Nat Molomo

MASERU — A Lesotho Liberation Army (LLA) ex-combatant who was sentenced to 36 years in jail for shooting dead a man and his three-month-old baby will now serve only 20 years.
Court of Appeal President Michael Ramodibedi last week reduced Tau Lefu’s jail term to 20 years saying the High Court’s sentence was “so excessive as to be grossly disproportionate to the offences charged”.
Lefu appealed against his sentence after High Court judge Justice Nthomeng Majara found him guilty of fatally shooting Moshoeshoe Pitikoe Moshoeshoe and his baby at Ha Nyenye near Likoting in Leribe on November 9, 2005.
He was sentenced to 18 years in jail for each count of murder.
He was also fined M500 or six months in prison for unlawful possession of a gun.
The first two counts were ordered to run consecutively.
“The appellant deserves to be punished severely but proportionately to the offences charged,” Justice Ramodibedi said in his judgment on April 27.
The judge said in reducing the sentence he had considered that Lefu was 49 years of age when he committed the offences and 55 years old when he was sentenced to an effective period 36 years in prison.
“This means that he would leave prison at the age of 71 years, if he is lucky to live that long,” he said.
He said the High Court judgment had also failed to “recognise that the shooting of the baby was in fact one single transaction with the deceased’s shooting”.
The crown’s case was that on the fateful day Moshoeshoe was sitting under a tree holding the baby when Lefu approached him.
Lefu then fired four shots which instantly killed Moshoeshoe.
The baby died on the way to hospital.
Lefu had appealed against the sentence on the grounds that it was too severe and shocking.
Justice Ramodibedi said he was prepared to adopt the principle that where “sentence is so excessive as to be grossly disproportionate to the offences charged” the Court of Appeal was entitled to interfere and pass an appropriate sentence.
Justice Craig Howie and Acting High Court Judge Motiea Teele KC concurred.
“In my view the court a quo misdirected itself in at least two fundamental issues in sentencing the appellant, namely, in failing to take into account provocation despite the court’s finding to that effect at the extenuating circumstances,” Ramodibedi said.
This, he said, was despite the finding by the High Court that an extenuating factor did exist in the accused’s belief that the premises that the deceased was renting are his and that this gave him the right to go and repair or change the locks of the door.
The Court of Appeal observed that it is essential to stress that extenuating circumstances and the imposition of sentence are completely different stages in the course of the criminal trial.
It added that the High Court had also failed to recognise that the shooting of the baby was in fact one single transaction with the deceased’s shooting.
Justice Ramodibedi said having considered the above facts, it was necessary to reduce the harshness of the cumulative effect of the sentences imposed on Lefu.

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