THE prison term of a farmer and traditional leader from the Karas Region who was convicted of murdering his son in a shooting incident five years ago was cut from ten years to five in an appeal judgement of the High Court this week.
When Jacobus Quido Appolus (73) was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment, of which five years were suspended for a period of five years, at the end of his trial in the Keetmanshoop Regional Court in August 2011, the aspect of deterrence was over-emphasised, while strong personal mitigating factors in favour of Appolus were under-emphasised, Judge Harald Geier concluded in a judgement on an appeal by Appolus.
Appolus's appeal against his conviction was dismissed but the appeal against the sentence succeeded. The sentence was changed to one of ten years' imprisonment, of which five years were suspended for a period of five years on condition that Appolus is not convicted of murder or attempted murder committed during the period of suspension.
Appolus, then aged 70, pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder at the start of his trial in August 2010.
He was accused of having murdered his son, Patricio David Appolus (36), at Tses on February 2 2008.
In a written plea explanation provided to the court Appolus admitted having fired the shot which ended his son's life. However, he claimed he had been acting in self-defence when he was being attacked by his unruly son, who was throwing stones and bricks at him during an argument.
The magistrate reasoned that if Appolus wanted to fire a warning shot, he could have aimed it into the air. He concluded that Appolus had not been under attack as claimed, and that even if he had been, he had exceeded the bounds of self-defence when he fired the fatal shot.
Judge Geier stated that he could not find that the magistrate's verdict had been wrong.
On the sentence, though, the judge agreed with defence lawyer Percy McNally that it would not serve any purpose to send Appolus to prison for an effective ten years to deter him from committing a similar crime, or because he is danger to society, or to make an example of him.
Appolus was a first-time offender, a man of standing in his community, and a respected leader in his community's traditional authority.
He will have to continue to live for the rest of his life with the fact that he has killed his own son - a deed which has obviously hurt him deeply and for which he has expressed remorse, Judge Geier noted.