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Judges slash sentence of forgery convict student

2022-03-15  Maria Amakali

Judges slash sentence of forgery convict student

A medical student, who was convicted for forging Covid-19 test results last year, scored a partial victory in the High Court yesterday. Judges of appeal Christie Liebenberg and Claudia Claasen gave an order to have the sentence of Mussa Phiri (28) amended despite his plea to have his sentence wholly suspended. 

The court ordered the sentence imposed by the Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s Court on the count of forgery should run concurrently with the sentence on the count of uttering a forged document. On 10 August, the lower court sentenced Phiri to one-year imprisonment for the count of forgery and another year on the uttering of a forged document charge.

Phiri was sentenced alongside fellow student Martha Namupala after they both admitted guilt to the charges. Phiri, who is a seventh-year medical student, was arrested at the Ngoma border post in Zambezi region while leaving Namibia. Phiri was on his way back to Zambia to continue his studies at Cavendish University in that country after a visit to Namibia.

 He furnished immigration officers with forged Covid-19 test results so he may be allowed to leave Namibia. The judges indicated society’s interests, in this case, outweigh his personal circumstances. “The appellant’s moral blame worthiness is exacerbated by the fact that he was a medical student who forged Covid-19 test results in circumstances where he must have realised the possible detrimental consequences to others,” said the judges. But the court noted, the charges are related, with “one offence being consequential to the other”. 

Phiri had lodged an appeal with the High Court, arguing that his sentences were harsh and induced a sense of shock if they are to be compared to sentences imposed in similar cases. 

He further argued the lower court overemphasised the seriousness of his offences and society’s interest at the expense of his personal circumstances. Through his lawyer Jermaine Muchali, he had proposed that the court should impose a wholly suspended sentence or a fine of N$3 000. 

The State, represented by Taodago Gaweseb, said the lower court imposed an appropriate sentence. It was his stance that Phiri committed the offences during a time where a substantial number of people lost their lives as a result of Covid-19. So, his personal circumstances have no weight compared to the public’s interest.

2022-03-15  Maria Amakali

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