Robberies ‘merit harsh sentences’

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Cape Town - Jail sentences that reflect strong disapproval and abhorrence of driveway and house robberies should be imposed, a Western Cape High Court judge believes.

Judge Robert Henney made the comments in a judgment delivered on Wednesday in an appeal a man lodged against his conviction in a driveway robbery case.

“A robbery of this nature usually implies a measure of planning and premeditation, where defenceless, vulnerable victims are singled out and preyed upon.

“The prevalence of these kinds of robberies… is on the increase. It is where unsuspecting members of the public are attacked in their driveways when the assailants either force them into their homes or where they are dispossessed, by violent means, of their vehicles and other possessions whilst they are in and around their homes.

“What is particularly aggravating is when it happens at their homes where they are supposed to feel safe and are usually unguarded,” he said.

In October last year the Wynberg Regional Court convicted Sherabeen Francis of robbery with aggravating circumstances and the unlawful possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to an effective 12 years in jail.

The convictions stemmed from an incident in Wynberg in June 2008 when the victim, Astrid Clements, went to visit her mother. As she parked in the driveway a car pulled up next to her and the occupants asked for directions.

As she got out of her car to help them, one of the men pulled out a gun, pressed it to her head and robbed her of her handbag.

She refused to hand over her car keys and the men did not persist.

The following morning, when police arrived at a flat in Grassy Park to arrest Francis on an unrelated charge, they found Clements’ wallet and rings.

He, however denied any involvement in the driveway robbery, claiming that a friend, who he identified as Elton, asked him to keep the items and a firearm.

He also claimed Elton had died.

Francis appealed to the High Court saying the 12-year jail term was disproportionate to the gravity of the offence.

Judge Henney disagreed, however, saying there was uncontested evidence from the police that Francis behaved suspiciously when he was arrested, and did not give a satisfactory explanation for how he came to be in possession of items stolen from Clements a mere few hours earlier.

Judge Henney added that he did not believe that the sentence imposed was disproportionate, saying that a young, defenceless woman who seemed to be easy prey had a firearm pressed to her head in a traumatic encounter.

He dismissed the appeal.

Judge Judith Cloete agreed.

Weekend Argus


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