MASERU — Police Commissioner ‘Malejaka Letooane escaped jail last week after Chief Justice Mahapela Lehohla granted her the right to appeal at the High Court.
The judgement was delivered ex tempore last Wednesday meaning that the written reasons will be given at a later date.
Chief Justice Lehohla heard the case after it had ping-ponged between two senior High Court judges and a magistrate for the past three weeks.
Magistrate Tseliso Bale on August 18 slapped Letooane with a six-month jail term for contempt of court.
Letooane was in August sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of court after she failed to appear in court to testify in the trial of one Majake Ramoroke.
Ramoroke is facing car theft charges in the Maseru Magistrates Court.
Last week the police commissioner applied for bail to Bale the same magistrate who slapped her with the jail term for failing to conform with the court order.
Letooane wanted the court to grant her bail pending an appeal against her conviction and sentence.
But in a dramatic twist to the case last week, the chief justice intervened in the matter and granted the police commissioner the right to appeal at the High Court.
This effectively means the police boss is now off the hook.
Advocate Ranale Thoahlane told Justice Lehohla that “the magistrate (Bale) erred and misdirected himself at law in convicting the appellant personally of contempt without the evidence that the appellant had personally been served with the order issued on April”.
“The learned Magistrate erred and misdirected himself in granting an order of committal which nobody had asked for. The learned magistrate had no jurisdiction in law to grant of committal which nobody had applied for,” Thoahlane said.
He said the magistrate had also erred and misdirected himself in ordering that Letooane had authorised the release of the vehicle contrary to anorder of the court when there was no admissible evidence to that effect.
He said the magistrate also erred when he entertained a criminal application on April 1 and giving a final order thereon on the April 2.
“The learned magistrate ought to have dismissed that application on the basis that in criminal proceedings the only authority that has locus standi to bring the vehicle before court as an exhibit is the DPP not the accused,” he said.
Thoahlane also argued that the magistrate had erred in convicting the appellant of contempt when there were no essentials of contempt to prove the charge.
Chief Justice Lehohla agreed with Thoahlane and granted her the right to appeal at the High Court against her conviction.
High Court registrar Advocate ‘Mathato Sekoai said there was nothing wrong with the Chief Justice hearing the case.
She said the Chief Justice had unlimited jurisdiction to hear any matter even bail applications.
Sekoai said although the work of the Chief Justice was more administrative there was nothing wrong in the chief justice presiding over some cases.