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Cape Town – A Stellenbosch man who received a sentence of eight years in jail for stealing R30 and a packet of cigarettes, has had his term reduced on appeal in the Western Cape High Court after a judge found the punishment to be “unjustifiably severe.”
Peter Klaasen was originally sentenced in the Stellenbosch regional court after being tried and charged with three counts, housebreaking with the intent to steal and theft, robbery with aggravating circumstances and common assault.
Klaasen was subsequently convicted on the two counts of theft and robbery with aggravating circumstances. The common assault charge was withdrawn.
On the first count which involved the theft of a jacket valued at R250, he received four years’ imprisonment and on the second, robbery with aggravating circumstances, he got eight years in jail.
Klassen was accused of breaking into a flat in Stellenbosch in April 2017 to steal the jacket.
During his trial at the Magistrate’s Court it emerged in evidence that he entered the flat through an open door at 1.30am after noticing that it was wide open. On realising that there was nobody in the flat, he looked for valuables to steal and found the jacket.
It was while he was inside that the owner of the flat returned and arrested Klaasen with the help of security personnel.
On the second charge, Klaasen admitted that in May 2017 he saw a man standing at the bus stop and approached him asking for a cigarette. He then grabbed the man’s arm, threatened him with a knife and demanded that he hands over his cellphone.
The man did not have a cell phone but was robbed of R30 and a packet of cigarettes.
At the Magistrate’s Court the state highlighted Klaasen’s previous convictions including a suspended sentence for theft; a two-year sentence for theft and a year’s imprisonment for housebreaking with intent to steal and theft.
In his appeal Klaassen’s advocate argued that the regional magistrate overemphasised the appellant’s previous convictions which resulted in a disproportionate sentence and misdirected himself in considering previous convictions older than 10 years.
Acting Judge Mas-Udah Pangarker said: “My view is that when imposing the four years for theft, the regional magistrate failed to have regard to the cumulative effect of the sentences he was imposing.
“The failure to consider the cumulative effect of four years’ imprisonment for the theft plus eight years for the robbery aggravating, rendered the sentence of four years disproportionate, in that it was theft of a jacket valued at R250.”
The judge ruled that the sentence of four years for the theft charge and the eight years on the charge of robbery with aggravating circumstances would run concurrently so that the effective period of the sentence would be eight years’ direct imprisonment.