The Magistrate’s Court in Lilongwe yesterday sentenced three Area 24 women to four years imprisonment with hard labour for assault occasioning bodily harm and insulting the modesty of a woman.
The three—Flora Chinguwo, Norah Chatsika and Gertrude Banda — have been answering the two charges in relation to an attack which they occasioned on Bridget Kumchulesi.
In his judgement, Senior Resident Magistrate Paul Chiotcha, said the court wanted to give the three 10-year jail terms considering the gravity of the offence but, considering that the accused were subjected to assault in the hands of the police, the court decided to reduce the jail term.
“The police assaulted the accused, beat them up and took off part of their clothes. Therefore, the police have disturbed the operations of the court. Because of what the police did, the court has reduced the sentence,” Chiotcha said.
Chiotcha further said it is surprising that authorities at police are not picking the matter up.
He also said the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and lawyers of the three made their input to the sentence.
Lawyer for the three, Oscar Taulo, said their objective of having a lesser sentence has been achieved.
“We wanted them [the three convicts] to be given a minimum sentence as you know this offence attracts a maximum of life imprisonment. As the magistrate said, the police had disturbed the court. By reducing the jail term from 10 years to four, we have achieved something, but we still have a right to appeal,” he said.
MHRC Deputy Director of Civil and Political Rights, Peter Mota, said the commission is happy with the sentence; however, it is not pleased with what the police did.
“We are not amused with what the police did because these are public officers and they are supposed to carry their work professionally. You can even see from the sentence that the court has said the number of years be reduced because the police had mishandled the accused while in custody,” he said.
Last month, the same court sentenced three women from Area 25 to six years in prison each for committing offences similar to those committed by those from Area 24.