LUSAKA High Court judge Catherine Lombe Phiri has ordered the release from prison of eight civil servants who were sentenced to six months by a magistrates’ court for contempt of court after they failed to avail four Chinese who were accused persons before court.
And judge Phiri said the eight civil servants should not forfeit the K20,000 each which they pledged in their own recognizance because they have already served a jail term.
Reviewing a ruling in which one of the civil servants Beatrice Mulenga applied for review of the six months sentence slapped on her and seven others for failure to avail four Chinese who were facing charges of unauthorised access to intercept data and being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of crime, judge Phiri said the sentencing of the civil servants and order that they pay the K20,000 came to her with a sense of shock.
“Therefore, this sentence of six months in default comes to me with a sense of shock as being excessive. I will therefore, vary that order and substitute it with one-month imprisonment in the event of default,” judge Phiri said.
The accused persons Fang Hua ping, 44, a businessman, Yu Fei, 36, businessman, Zhuang Wei, 35, contractor, Luo Tao, an interior designer, all from Kamwala South, allegedly jumped bail which caused the magistrate to punish the sureties by imposing the six months jail term on them in addition to them been ordered to forfeit K20,000.
Judge Phiri said since she has varied the sentence from six months to a month imprisonment, the applicant and others have already served and should be released from the correctional facility.
She said Mulenga and others should also not forfeit the K20,000 because they have served the jail term.
Judge Phiri said a look at the record clearly showed that there was confusion in the mind of the magistrate in dealing with the surety in the event that an accused person absconds.
She said the magistrate seemed to have decided that the failure by the sureties to bring the accused persons to court amounted to contempt of court and therefore, decided to deal with the sureties as contemnors.
Judge Phiri said the duties of the sureties are provided for under the law and what ought to be done in an event of a surety failing to meet the obligations could also be inferred from the law.
She said in this case, the bail was set for K20,000 in own recognizance and that should the accused fail to appear, the same would be forfeited to the State and that the court also has the discretion to order imprisonment in the event that the forfeited amount was not paid within the ordered period.
Judge Phiri said her findings and orders also applied to Grace Mwamba, Clement Tembo, Alick Muwana, Alicia Bwalya and Patrick Tembo, Kambinga Wachaza and another