Criminals must carry their own cross – judge

By Roland Routh

Windhoek – High Court Judge Christi Liebenberg on Thursday said although he is mindful that diminished criminal responsibility is a factor that distinguishes circumstances from that of a person who is not mentally incapacitated, the sentence to be imposed must still reflect the serious nature of the offense and the interests of society.

He said this during the sentencing of Siegfried Uirab, who was convicted of killing his mother with an axe at her home in Otjimbingwe.

Uirab was found to have acted with diminished capacity by local psychiatrist Dr Reinhardt Sieberhagen due to continued alcohol and dagga abuse.



Judge Liebenberg convicted Uirab last month of murder, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and assault by threat, read with the Combating of Domestic Violence Act.

Uirab murdered his mother by striking her several times on the head with an axe; he also hit his elder sister once on the head with the handle of the axe and threatened to kill his sister’s child with the same axe.

In the determination as to what constitutes proper and just punishment for the accused in the circumstances, his state of mind and thus his blameworthiness at the time of committing the crimes is obviously a crucial factor, Judge Liebenberg remarked during sentencing.

He said it is trite knowledge that the degree of blameworthiness should be reflected in the sentence and went on to say the extent of the accused’s distorted perceptions is evident from his testimony, – as stated in the psychiatric report – which reduced his power of restraint and self-control.

That notwithstanding, the judge said, the convict still had the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions and to act in accordance with such appreciation, albeit limited.

He said the court during trial was satisfied that Uirab acted with direct intent when he murdered his mother.

According to Liebenberg, while the State submitted that the crime was premeditated, it would not be proper to rely on the evidence of the accused that he contemplated the attack itself, because by then he had already smoked cannabis, which affected his reasoning and self-control.

According to the judge, in sentencing in such cases where the accused’s criminal responsibility has been diminished, the accused’s personal circumstance must be given sufficient weight, But, he said, it is not the only factor, as the court still has to have regard for the seriousness of the offenses and the need to impose retributive and deterrent sentences.

He said the circumstances in which the accused killed his own mother for no reason at all are painful and difficult for the family to deal with.

“The attack was unprovoked, vicious and inhumane. For a parent to die such an unworthy death at the hands of their own child is shocking, to say the least, a tragedy that could have been avoided had the accused refrained from using drugs,” the judge said.

He said the unfortunate consequence of Uirab’s actions is an unavoidable custodial sentence and thus sentenced Uirab to 23 years in prison for the murder, two years for the assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and six months for the assault by threat convictions.

He, however, ordered that the sentences for the assault conviction run concurrently with the sentence on the murder conviction.

Uirab was represented by Titus Ipumbu and the State by Advocate Felisitas Shikerete.

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