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Jail term 'too harsh for teen'

Durban - Calling a six-year jail term for a 17-year-old housebreaker “harsh and excessive”, the Pietermaritzburg High Court has overturned the sentence and ordered that the teenager be released from jail.

In a strongly worded judgment handed down this month, Judge Esther Steyn ordered that the teenager be sentenced to 18 months’ of correctional supervision.

The youth, who may not be named because he is a minor, pleaded guilty in March to two counts of housebreaking and was sentenced by the Port Shepstone Magistrate’s Court to three years in jail on each count.

The magistrate said that the long sentence was appropriate because the teenager needed to be rehabilitated so he could “withstand the temptation to commit crime and lead a more fruitful life”.

Judge Steyn found that the magistrate had “overemphasised the seriousness of the crime” and ignored the teenager’s circumstances.

“The sentence imposed is not in the interests of justice and it merely pays lip service to the obligations in the Child Justice Act.

“The judgment shows no genuine attempt to focus on the individual and the reasons he was in conflict with the law.”

Judge Steyn said the teenager had had to look after himself from a “tender age”.

“He was abandoned by his mother and, despite being young, immature and uneducated, he had to fend for himself… and inevitably it led to crime.”

The teenager was placed under house arrest and ordered to attend life skill and orientation programmes.

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