Pretoria - The judge who recently sentenced farm workers Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen for forcing a man into a coffin, on Wednesday had to correct two technical errors which crept in during and after her sentencing.
The pair briefly appeared in the Gauteng High Court, on Wednesday, where Judge Sheila Mphahlele corrected the period of suspension, which she coupled to their respective 11 and 14 year sentences.
When she sentenced them, she suspended their sentences to eight years, but according to the Criminal Procedure Act, the maximum time you can suspend any sentence is five years.
This did not make a material difference to the time they will spend behind bars, but it was an error in law.
The second error was more significant, as the judge, after sentencing, wrote on the warrants for their incarceration that they had received 23 and 27 years respectively, in stead of 11 and 14 years. The warrants was also accordingly signed by the judge.
The significance of this was that they pair had to go to a different section of the jail, as they received sentences of more than 20 years. In terms of the warrants they had to be incarcerated with inmates who received similar sentences.
But correctional services discovered the error and informed the pair’s defence counsel.
Lawyer Marius Coertze, who appear for Oosthuizen, on Wednesday said the men were meanwhile held at the hospital section of Witbank Correctional Services, until the error was rectified by the judge.
“The error would have resulted in them being placed in a maximum facility at the correctional centre, together with inmates who were serving a life sentence. They would have been there with the wrong crowd,” Coertze said.
The pair were sentence about two weeks ago after they were convicted of assaulting Victor Mlotshwa and forcing him into a coffin.
Mlotshwa earlier testified that the men attacked him while he was hitching a ride and that they forced him into a coffin. A video depicting him begging for his life went viral.
He intended to claim damages from his attackers for the embarrassment they have put him through when thousands of people saw him crying and begging for his life.
The defence, after the sentencing, expressed their shock at the “harsh’ sentences and asked the court for leave to appeal. This was refused by Judge Mphahlele, but Coertze on Wednesday said they will now head directly to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.
He said on Wednesday’s error regarding the period of suspension which had to be rectified, constituted an irregularity as she had already made her final judgment two weeks ago.
“Anything she does afterwards is water under the bridge. You cannot change the judgment you have previously made in this way.” We will also take this irregularity on appeal as part of our request for leave to appeal.”
Coertze said their application will be finalised this weekend and it will then be sent to the SCA sometime next week.