Just read a decision delivered today from the full bench of the high court in Mthatha concerning Mzoxolo Dyantyi, an accused found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

But the regional magistrate sat alone and did not inform the accused that he was entitled to have two assessors sit with the magistrate to hear the matter. The accused appealed, and today the full bench ruled that since the court was not properly constituted, conviction and sentence were to be set aside and the accused released immediately.

How can it be that magistrates (and, often, prosecutors) still make such basic mistakes about fundamental procedural issues? I read so many cases in which rapists or murderers profit from mistakes about technical details; they may get lighter sentences than otherwise or, as here, they may get off completely. Is it poor training of these officials? Or what? What can be done about it? Does the justice department even care or follow up with the magistrates or prosecutors who make these mistakes?
#frustration because it is so rare that someone is actually arrested, tried and convicted – – – and then THIS!

  • As a reader points out in the comments below, Dyantyi may be charged again as he got off on a technical point. That’s if the police can find him.

Dyantyi v The State