A FORMER magistrate who corruptly pocketed payments from traffic offenders was sentenced to an effective jail term of two years on Friday.
Law graduate and former magistrate Melaney Theron was motivated by greed, rather than need, and broke the oath she had taken to uphold the law when she corruptly accepted payments of approximately N$6 000 from people who had been issued with traffic tickets at Oshakati, judge Nate Ndauendapo remarked during her sentencing in the Windhoek High Court.
While noting that Theron (35) genuinely expressed remorse over her actions after she was found guilty two months ago, he added that a sentence of effective imprisonment was inevitable in her case.
For a magistrate to be convicted of corruption was "like an earthquake", and through her corrupt activities, Theron had damaged the reputation of the judiciary as a whole, judge Ndauendapo said.
He sentenced Theron to four years' imprisonment, of which two years were suspended for a period of five years on condition that she is not again convicted of corruption or defeating or obstructing the course of justice, committed during the period of suspension.
Judge Ndauendapo found Theron guilty in July on five charges of defeating or obstructing the course of justice, five counts of corruptly using an office or position to obtain gratification, five charges of fraudulently concealing an offence, and a charge of corruptly accepting gratification.
The crimes she was convicted of were committed between May 2011 and 15 August 2011, when Theron was stationed at the Oshakati Magistrate's Court, where she accepted amounts of money totalling N$5 500 from various people charged with traffic offences. She used the money that she accepted in exchange for cancelling the charged persons' traffic tickets for her personal benefit.
Theron was arrested and charged in August 2011.
She informed the court after she had been convicted that she has been unemployed since she lost her position as a magistrate, and that she has been unable to find employment during the past eight years because of the criminal charges that were pending against her.
Theron also told the court that she was a single mother of a daughter aged nine, and that she was dependent on her parents, who are also helping her raise and maintain her child.
She further acknowledged that, having been found guilty of the offences, she would never be able to pursue a career in law again.
Corruption is a serious offence, and it is on the rise in Namibia, judge Ndauendapo also noted on Friday. He added that the courts should send out an unequivocal message that corruption would not be tolerated.
Theron was not represented by a defence lawyer during the last stages of her trial, when she handled her defence on her own. State advocate Simba Nduna represented the prosecution during the trial.