Now I admit the heading is fighting words for the South African judiciary is justly proud of being autonomous and they are indeed very defensive of that status. But is it true or just half a truth? You should know by now that law is such an imprecise science that it drives sane people nuts and only the insane ones enjoys it. Obviously I don't and I have papers to prove my sanity whilst you reading here almost certainly only have a "legal presumption" which can be overturned in court. Just saying :) Be that as it may, the answer is yes up to a point meaning that long haired liberals (all politicians regardless from which party or alignment are known to me by that name) do not interfere in the actual trial but they almost always do in the sentencing part when you are found guilty.
What happened was that minimum & mandatory sentences were introduced for a lot of crimes no matter what actually happened. Simply this means that if you are found guilty on a specific crime and the law (made by the long hair liberals in parliament) states you get x years for that crime - the Judge has to abide by that and you will then get x years no matter what the surrounding circumstances are. It is sometimes prejudicial for you also know that truth often is stranger than fiction.
This was not always so - traditionally our higher courts (first called the Supreme Court and then the High Court for political reasons) had what is known as inherent jurisdiction. They could hear whatever crime they wanted to hear and sentence as they wanted - subject to the law obviously but with wide discretion depending very much on the surrounding circumstance of the case. That ability is now largely taken away by over eager long hair liberals who just have to prescribe to everyone instead of actually doing the good work they promised during election time. Not that I blame the long haired liberals for forgetting about the election promises whilst living the high life which comes with politics - it was hogwash to begin with.
Practically this means that even if your tears did sway the Judge that you are genuinely sorry it will not help you...the minimum sentence will still be inflicted on you and you will still go to jail for x number of years decided long before you actually committed the crime. Still, you are sort of lucky to even get those years for in the olden days some crimes had the death penalty automatically invoked. Consequently many respected and honourable Judges became merchants of death with a mandatory death sentence from political crimes to rape which they had to impose.
This shows the unfairness of the whole system. The Judge is restricted to an election promise made years ago which now going to have dire consequences for you. Of course, some clever professors will no doubt tell you that such laws also bring legal certainty if you know what crime brings what penalty but I have a problem with that argument. Law & life is complex (if not exactly rocket science) and every case should be judged and sentenced according to its own merits and surrounding circumstances - not what a long haired liberal decided years ago. It just makes no sense to rubber stamp such serious issues and we should trust our Judges more to act like judges.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. During his police years, he was awarded the South African Police Medal for Combating Terrorism twice besides lesser awards. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a commercial law attorney for eight years. These days he is the owner of JKLS Africa and Associates, a specialist legal consultancy which specializes in hostage survival training and reducing legal risk in Sub Saharan Africa. He wrote several books on business, law, counter-terrorism and security issues. At times he is asked to participate on the Voice of America regarding legal forensic matters. Koos is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.