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Johannesburg - A man convicted more than 11 years ago of being in possession of stolen property, but did not turn up for his sentencing proceedings, got a lucky break when he was re-arrested more than a decade later.
He was cleared of all charges as his case record could not be found and the magistrate who convicted him said he no longer recalled his case.
Johannes Tsotetsi was one of three accused who were convicted in the Meyerton Magistrate’s Court in August 2001. The matter was postponed for a pre-sentencing report, but neither Tsotetsi nor his co-accused attended their next court dates.
Warrants for their arrest were issued at the time.
The warrant in respect of Tsotetsi was executed 11 years later, in November 2011.
He was arrested and brought before the magistrate’s court on November 16, 2012. His two mates are still on the run.
When he appeared before court, it emerged that the original charge sheet could not be traced and there was no indication of what transpired in the case earlier.
The erstwhile prosecutor was no longer available and the magistrate who, in 2001, presided over the matter, had no recollection of the case.
Another prosecutor told the magistrate that it was indicated somewhere on a file that Tsotetsi was convicted in 2001.
The magistrate suggested that the conviction be set aside, so that the trial could start from scratch.
The issue was referred to the Pretoria High Court for a decision as to what should happen.
Judges JW Louw and Bill Prinsloo said in the absence of any record of the 2001 proceedings in this case, no court would be in a position to sentence the accused and so bring the proceedings to finality.
They said a considerable period of time had lapsed and it was unlikely that the record could successfully be reconstructed.