Why are some court sentences harsher than others?

The Khayelitsha regional court on Wednesday sentenced four men to a combined 127-years imprisonment for running an abalone syndicate.

The sentence shocked many people asking why the justice system is lenient on murderers and rapists and very harsh on these four men.

Criminal law expert, Advocate Mannie Witz, says it all depends on the charges and the Act under which an individual is charged as each one has a sentence provision.

Statutory matters prescribe to the presiding officers what type of sentence should be imposed.

Advocate Mannie Witz, Criminal Law Expert

According to Witz, these kind of crimes used to be under a different kind of Act which has now been changed to Marine and Living resources Act. In this particular Act they charge people with possession of abalone, transporting and processing of it, says Witz.

What happened here is a very important act which was formed in 1998, it's a statute called the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (Poca)... This is a sentence for proper organised crimes - syndicate related crimes.

Advocate Mannie Witz, Criminal Law Expert

In terms of Poca, you can get a fine R100 million or life imprisonment if you are found guilty. The regional court can limit it to a fine of R30 million or 20-25 years imprisonment or both.

Advocate Mannie Witz, Criminal Law Expert

Obviously these people have been convicted under that Act.

Advocate Mannie Witz, Criminal Law Expert

To hear more of this interview, listen below:

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