automatic review

Zimbabwe’s high court urges parliamentary rethink of minimum sentence provisions, including question of ‘special circumstances’

A magistrate’s conviction of a young man accused of stealing a ‘chair plate’ belonging to the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) from a ‘scrapheap’ and sending him to jail for an effective term of 10 years, has been overturned by the high court in Harare. The court, however, also used the occasion to urge that when an accused faces a mandatory minimum sentence, as happened here, they should be entitled to state-funded legal representation.

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First, the facts about the matter that came before high court judge, Joseph Chilimbe, who wrote the decision, and his colleague, Sylvia Chirawu-Mugomba.

Get your court paperwork in order, Namibian judges warn magistrates

What should the high court do when faced with trial records from the magistrate’s court that reflect the names of three different people in a case involving just one accused: one name at the typed start of the trial, a different name and age in the hand-written section of the record and a third name and age in the part of the trial dealing with mitigation? These and other problems have been taxing the high court in Namibia.

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Magistrates in Namibia have been rebuked by the high court over their failure to follow proper procedures for automatic review: for example, within a week of delivering sentence, magistrates are supposed to send copies of their matters to the high court for judges to certify the proceedings were in accordance with justice. Many do not, and delay in forwarding their records.

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