Passing of sentence (Zimbabwe)

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The sentencing process should be a rational and objective process and judicial officers are not expected to allow their emotions to cloud their judgment as to what is a suitable sentence. If they allow themselves to get carried away by their emotions, they may end up exaggerating the seriousness of the offence and imposing a disproportionate penalty for the offence. See Harington 1988 (2) ZLR 344 (S).

Before passing sentence the judicial officer is expected to give careful thought and consideration to what is the appropriate sentence in the circumstances and he should give full reasons for imposing the sentence which he has decided upon. Sentencing requires a rational process in which the court weighs all the relevant factors and decides what sentence is fair and appropriate. If the sentencer simply announces the sentence without giving reasons this may give the impression that sentencing is an arbitrary and unreasoned process. There must be a rational basis for the choice of one form of punishment rather than another Choice of one form of punishment rather than another. The sentencer should give reasons for this decision: Antonio & Ors1998 (2) ZLR 64 (H)

If the sentencer simply announces the sentence without giving reasons this may give the impression that sentencing is an arbitrary and unreasoned process. The court noted in Shariwa HB-37-03 that there is no room in our system for an "instinctive" approach to sentencing. Sentencing should be a rational process. The sentencing court must always strive to find a punishment which will fit both the crime and the offender. Whatever the gravity of the crime and the interests of society, the most important factors in determining the sentence are the person, and the character and circumstances of the crime. The determination of an equitable quantum of punishment must chiefly bear a relationship to the moral blameworthiness of the offender. However, there can be no injustice where in the weighing of offence, offender and the interests of society, more weight is attached to one or another of these, unless there is over-emphasis of one which leads to disregard of the other. The court should not be over-influenced by the seriousness of the type of the offence and fail to pay sufficient attention to other factors which are of no less importance in the actual case before the court. The over-emphasis of a wrongdoer's crimes and the under-estimation of his person constitute a misdirection which justifies the substitution of the sentence. Justice should also be tempered with mercy. See also Ngulube HH-48-02; Manyevere HB-38-03.


See Zimbabwe Criminal Defense Manual