Jail term hiked by 10 years

15 October 2019 | Justice

An eight-year prison term was more than doubled to 18 years after the State appealed the sentence of a man convicted of murder last year, arguing it did not reflect the gravity of the crime.

The additional 10 years behind bars that Zechnor Johr (33) faces were imposed by Windhoek High Court Judge Dinnah Usiku after the State argued the sentence of eight years had been “disturbingly inappropriate”.

Usiku agreed, and noted that “the sentence imposed is totally out of proportion to the gravity or magnitude of the offence. The deceased was not only stabbed once, but twice.”

In her reasons for the judgment given last week, with agreement from acting Judge Kobus Miller, Usiku said murder in Namibia has “reached an alarming proportion in our society whereby violence has now become the order of the day”.

She said court should be seen to “play the role in curbing this evil”.

She quoted a judgment in which the court concluded in another case that “whether we want to believe it or not we are involved in a war against crime which at present shows no sign of abating. The situation calls for exceptional measures and in this process courts play an important role.”

Usiku said she shared this opinion, adding that “in my view, since violent conduct is no longer tolerated, heavier sentences must be imposed” as a deterrent and for retribution.

She further said the eight-year sentence was “disturbingly lenient and this court cannot allow it to stand”.

Johr's murder conviction, handed down in the Regional Court in Rehoboth last year, stemmed from an incident dating back to 8 September 2006.

Johr and the deceased, Neville Strauss, who was 22 at the time, according to witnesses argued about a soccer jersey close to the Boozerama Bottle Store in Rehoboth. Both had been drinking.

The dispute ended when Johr chased after Strauss and stabbed him once in the neck and once in the back.

The case took 12 years to be finalised, during which time Johr was free on bail.

The State argued that Magistrate Alexis Diergaardt had ignored that the accused was out on bail during that time, and had during her judgment pointed out the case had been “hanging over your [Johr's] head for 12 years now”.

The State argued that the time it took for the case to be finalised should not have played a role in the sentencing decision.

It also argued in its appeal that apart from the lenient sentence, which “induces a sense of shock”, the personal circumstances of Johr had been over-emphasised during sentencing.

Moreover, that crucial elements of the crime committed, such as the intent to kill, as well as the “brutality of the attack and the lack of remorse”, were under-emphasised by the magistrate.

Usiku in her decision noted that the magistrate did not comply with precedents of sentences imposed for similar offences, which was “a serious misdirection which seriously vitiated the sentence”.

JANA-MARI SMITH

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