Court official charged for stealing records

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FRANCISTOWN: A principal bench clerk at the Francistown Magistrates’ Courts, Patrick Gaborekwe, and two men, Meshack Morapedi and Future Gobagoba, were denied bail on Tuesday

The trio is charged with conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice. The particulars of the offence are that during the month of November 2015, at a date unknown to the prosecution at the Francistown Magistrate Courts, the accused conspired  to have Gaborekwe steal two court records concerning Gobagoba and Morapedi, thus defeating the ends of justice for the duo.

In the second count, the state alleges that Gaborekwe on or about November 11 at the Francistown Magistrates Court, being a person employed in the public service, stole two court records being the property of state. In the last count, the state alleges that Morapedi and Gobagoba on November 11 near Engen Filling station in Francistown received from Gaborekwe two court records knowing that the aforesaid court records had been stolen.

Passing judgement on the bail application for Gaborekwe, regional Magistrate Mathaka Masilo said that Gaborekwe’s attorney Mishingo Jeremia had hinted at objecting to the manner in which the accused was charged.

“Jeremia’s view is that there had been an unnecessary splitting of charges. It was however agreed that since the investigations had just been commenced the issue would be revisited at a later stage. The three were not asked to plead to the charges as investigations were said to be underway,” said Masilo.

Masilo said that the investigating officer testified that investigations were still at an early stage with more files missing at the Magistrates’ Courts and he was still awaiting an audit from the Chief Magistrate.

He added: “The investigating officer revealed that the files which he seized were reconstructed files after the originals went missing sometime last year. He seized two files from Morapedi and Gobagoba and said that he needed more time to investigate. Morapedi and Gobagoba did not object to the application by the prosecution while Gaborekwe’s attorney submitted that his client should be admitted bail because he is a citizen of this country and would not abscond from trial”. Masilo stated that Jeremia submitted that the prosecution has not availed evidence that Gaborekwe is likely to interfere with investigations.

“In fact the two records for which Gaborekwe stands before court have been recovered. Gaborekwe therefore cannot be remanded for cases under investigation and which are not before the court,” Masilo said in relation to Jeremia’s submissions.

Application to bail pending trial, Masilo said, is sacrosanct and should only be curtailed if the interests of justice require so, adding that it must be borne in mind that an accused person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty and as such should not easily be deprived of his or her liberty.

“The view I take is that the submissions that because the two files concerning the charges before the court have been discovered means that the investigations are at an advanced stage is an oversimplification of the process of investigations for a matter before us. The offence of conspiracy in particular is complex. It involves an agreement between two or more people to commit an unlawful act,” said Masilo.

Masilo said that it is not farfetched or too much speculation that the files were smuggled outside the court building in an attempt to defeat the ends of justice. “This is something which needs extensive investigations and the two days that the investigators had could not have been enough to cover everything. It is my view that the prosecution should be afforded time to complete their investigations. Gaborekwe is not an ordinary member of the public. He is an employee of the Administration of Justice who will ordinarily have unlimited access to the case files,” said Masilo.

He added that if indeed Gaborekwe confessed to removing the files, it would not be unreasonable to commence investigations from the premise that he is a suspect in the other missing files.

“…It is equally in the public interest that investigations should be allowed to continue without fear of them being contaminated by the accused…Circumstances of this case are that the prejudice likely to be suffered by Gaborekwe is outweighed by the prejudice likely to be suffered by the state if he is admitted to bail now. Bail is therefore denied.”

Recently, Principal Magistrate Sijabuliso Siziba referred Gobagoba to the High Court for sentencing because he does not have the authority to sentence him to jail for more than the statutory mandatory sentence of 10 years after he convicted him of one count of rape.

Similarly, Siziba sentenced Morapedi to six years in jail after he found him guilty of one count of rape. Morapedi and Gobagoba implicated some magistrates for being involved in the conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice when asked if they have anything to say.

Editor's Comment
What about employees in private sector?

How can this be achieved when there already is little care about the working conditions of those within the private sector employ?For a long time, private sector employees have been neglected by their employers, not because they cannot do better to care for them, but because they take advantage of government's laxity when it comes to protecting and advocating for public sector employees, giving the cue to employers within the private sector...

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