S vs Nkosi 2002 (1) SACR 135 (WLD)

Main Issue: Imposition of life sentence on juveniles and mandatory

Findings: When the accused (along with another 21 years old accomplice), who was 16 at the time of the commission of the offence, was first sentenced, his guilty plea, lack of previous conviction and youth did not assist him. Court imposed life sentence as mandatory. On appeal, he convinced a full bench that it was not bound to impose the prescribed sentence and argued that a close reading of the provisions of s51 of the 1997 Criminal Law Amendment Act meant that courts were not compelled to pass sentences on offenders between the age of 16 and 18 years in the absence of “substantial and compelling” circumstances. Court ruled that the sentencing court had wrongly held itself bound to impose the mandatory sentence. After considering the best interest of the child, seriousness of the offence and the interest of society, Court imposed a sentence of 18 years for the murder, with which sentences for the lesser crimes of housebreaking would run concurrently.