Pretoria - The Pretoria High Court has come to the aid of a 19-year-old Lydenburg pupil who stole school shoes from a shop as his family was too poor to buy him a pair and he was prohibited by his school from wearing takkies.
Josia Maphanga was sentenced by a Lydenburg magistrate to a fine of R2 000, or four months’ imprisonment, suspended for five years, after he stole the shoes worth R198 from a chain store.
He was caught when the shop alarm went off as he left with the shoes hidden under his clothes.
Maphanga admitted the theft, but told the magistrate that he stole as he really needed school shoes. His only parent, his mother, was unemployed and sick and he and his siblings depended on an aunt for maintenance.
The matter came to the attention of Judge George Webster when it was sent for a review of the sentence.
Judge Webster found the sentence “shockingly inappropriate” and asked the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to comment. The office agreed that it “seemed to be excessive under the circumstances”.
The magistrate, in sentencing Maphanga, told him that not having school shoes and his school refusing that he wear takkies, did not justify the theft.
The interests of the business community should be taken into account and the fact that they had to incur expenses for extra security measures to protect them against thieves such as him, the magistrate told Maphanga.
Judge Webster said the magistrate knew nothing about the accused’s circumstances and did not bother to find out by appointing a social worker to investigate.
The situation was exacerbated by the magistrate emphasising the situation of shop owners and the impact crime had on prices, the judge said.
The accused told the court his family could not afford to buy him shoes.
Seeing that the accused was still in school, the magistrate should have investigated channels that would assist a child in his circumstances, the judge said. He suggested the State, social workers, the community or a local priest could have come to the accused’s aid.
Judge Webster set aside the sentence and suggested a sentence which would entail correctional supervision. - Pretoria News