Pretoria - A shoplifter who wheeled her grocery-laden trolley, filled with expensive items, out of Pick n Pay in The Grove, Pretoria, without paying, may escape a jail sentence. This is because she has a young son and it’s not clear who will take care of him while she is behind bars.

In June, Jeanette Pretorius stole groceries valued at R1 831. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 60 days of which was suspended. She therefore has to serve 30 days in jail. The matter was referred from the lower court to the Pretoria High Court for review of this sentence.

Judge Neil Tuchten said the lower court should have ensured Pretorius’s son, 10, had someone to take care of him while his mother was in jail. He referred the matter back to the magistrate for reconsideration of Pretorius’s sentence.

He said the magistrate might form the view that a non-custodial sentence was appropriate, or that a jail sentence was the only option, or that a “short, sharp knock” was exactly what this mother needed.

Pretorius had pleaded not guilty to shoplifting. She said she was on sick leave, did not feel well that day and did not realise she had left the shop without paying. Her husband was supposed to pay, but he was elsewhere in the mall and she left the shop – with the trolley - to find him so he could pay, she said.

The State said Pretorius had that day loaded a trolley with groceries - which took her about an hour to select. She asked the teller for permission to go to the cigarette counter to buy cigarettes. After that, she would return to pay. She joined the cigarette counter queue, but did not buy anything. She left the store, walking fast. She was stopped 15m from the store. No cigarettes were in her trolley.

Her husband testified he had left the store with their child, but on the understanding he would return to pay. He discovered “to his surprise” his wife had been arrested.

Judge Tuchten said the interests of the child should have been considered. The magistrate had to ensure a support system was in place before jailing the mother.

Pretoria News