By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent
A 16-year-old Chinhoyi girl, who was recently jailed and later bailed for violating the national Covid-19 curfew, has since challenged the sentence through the High Court.
Blessing Macharika was charged with disobeying curfew orders and regulations as provided in Part 111 Section 25(2) of Statutory Instrument 10/21.
She was convicted on her own guilty plea and was sentenced to a $15 000 fine, failure to which she would spend 60 days in jail.
In her ruling, magistrate Melody Rwizi set aside 30 days for the next two years on condition of good behaviour.
In court submissions filed 5 February 2021, Blessing’s lawyer Pamellah Musimwa of Justice for Children (JCT Trust), said presiding magistrate Rwizi misdirected herself in passing the “harsh” sentence.
“The circumstances of appellant did not warrant the payment of a fine with or without any time to pay nor an option of a custodial sentence in default of payment, thus it induces a sense of shock…” argued Musimwa.
“Appellant is only a juvenile, being only 16 years of age…(she) also indicated she is a Form 3 student at Kutama High with neither savings nor any valuable assets.”
Further read part of the founding affidavit, “As a school-going student, it was to be expected appellant has no means of earnings thus is in no position to have a sentence of a fine, nomatter the amount, imposed on her.
“It is shocking, therefore, how the learned magistrate came to the conclusion that the appellant in her current position can afford such an exorbitant fine of $15 000 unless if the learned magistrate had the intention of having appellant imprisoned.”
Musimwa averred that imprisonment was supposed to be a measure of last resort after the court exhausted all other possible remedies to rehabilitate and reintegrate the offender.
“Unfortunately, there is no evidence that the appellant has ever been subjected to a proper intervention appropriate for juveniles.
“Thus, the court, through the learned magistrate, failed to offer any protection to the appellant as a juvenile.”
Sentencing was done without assessing circumstances which prompted the girl to break the law, while recommendations could have been sought from a probation officer to guide magistrate’s verdict, she further argued.
Blessing, through her lawyer, prays that the court quashes the sentence and have her placed in a reformatory juvenile school.
The matter is yet to be set down.
The case against Blessing was that on 28 January 2021 at around 11pm, she was loitering at Gadzema main bus terminus, Chinhoyi while in the company of two unidentified men.
The trio spotted a team of police officers who were on routine patrol and started running away prompting the officers to pursue them.
Blessing was caught during the chase while her colleagues vanished into the darkness.
She was taken to Chemagamba Police Station where she was charged for breaching the on-going curfew meant to prevent the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.