Welcome to the new SeyLII website. Enjoy an improved search engine and new collections. If you are used to accessing SeyLII via Google, note Google will take some time to re-index the site.

We are still busy migrating some of the old content. If you need anything in particular from the old website, it will be available for a while longer at https://old.seylii.org/

Court name
Supreme Court
Case number
CN 95 of 2013

Leon v Republic (CN 95 of 2013) [2015] SCSC 221 (01 July 2015);

Media neutral citation
[2015] SCSC 221
Akiiki-Kiiza, J

Counsel for Plaintiff: Mr. Gabriel Counsel for Defendant/Respondent: Mr. Thachet



Criminal   Side:  CN 95/2013

Appeal from Magistrates    Court   decision 304/2013

[2015] SCSC 221









Heard: 20 April 2015


Mr Gabriel  for appellant

Mr Thachet, Attorney General for the Republic

Delivered: 1 July 2015



Akiiki-Kiiza J

[1]       This  is an appeal  from  the judgment   and  orders  of the  trial  court  dated  the  24/09113 whereby  the  appellant   was  convicted   on  a  charge  of  Breaking   into  a  building   an committing  therein  a felony  contrary  to  section  291  (a)  and  section  260  of  the  Penal Code.   He was sentenced  to a term of  10 years  imprisonment.   He was dissatisfied  with the above orders and has now appealed to this Court on the following grounds:-

a)   Against conviction

(i)          That   the   learned   Senior   Magistrate    erred   in  convicting    the  appellant    In his absence.

(ii)       That  the  learned  Senior  Magistrate  misdirected  herself  when  convicting  the appellant on a defective charge sheet and insufficient evidence.

(iii)      That  in  all  circumstances   the  conviction   of  the  appellant  was  unsafe  and unsatisfactory.


b)  Against sentence

a)   That the sentence of  10 years imprisonment  by the learned senior  Magistrate  was wrong in principle.

b)  That the  learned senior  Magistrate  fai led to consider  a sentence  that  falls below the minimum limit of her jurisdiction.

[2]       He prayed for the quashing of both the conviction and the sentence.

[3]       At  the  hearing  of  this  appeal,  Mr Nicol  Gabriel  appeared   for  the  appellant   and  Mr Thachet appeared for the Respondent Republic.

[4]        Mr Gabriel submitted  to the effect, that the judgment  should  not have been read in the absence of his client and that, the charge was defective  and should have included section 23 in the charge and was not individual  in nature.   Also that the sentence was harsh and should be quashed.

[5]       On the other hand Mr Thachet submitted  to the effect that the appellant  had been warned to attend Court but he decided to absent himself, hence he is deemed to have consented to the  proceedings   to  go  ahead  in  his  absence.     He  relied  on  article   19  (12)  of  the Constitution  and section  133 A of the Criminal  Procedure Code for his contention.

[6]         As to the Right of Appeal to be explained  to him, it was Mr Thachet  submission  that this was done by the trial Court.   As to the inclusion of section  23 in the charge,  it was his submission that, the appellant was charged separately  in the first count and the others had been  charged   separately    in  the  second   count   and  that  the  offences    were   not  the  same. Hence  there  was  no need  to treat  all the  accused   persons   as joint   offenders.

[7]        As  to  this  severity   of  the   10 years   imprisonment    he said  that  he  maximum   sentence   was 14 years   for  the  offence   of  breaking    into  a  building   contrary   to  section   291  (a)  of  the Penal   Code.      Hence    10  years   was   reasonable     in  the   circumstances      considering     the provisions    of section   27  (I)  ( c) of the  penal  Code  on  minimum   mandatory    sentence   and that  there  were  no  exceptional    circumstances     to  warrant   the  imposition    of  less  than  the mandatory   minimum   sentence   of  10 years.   He prayed  for the  dismissal   of the  appeal.

[8]         I will  examine   the  appellant's    submissions    in the order  his counsel   had  argued  them.

[9]            Regarding    the  necessity   to  have  included   section   23  in the  charge,   a careful   perusal   of the  charge   brought   against   the  3 accused   persons   indicate   that,  the  appellant   was  charged of  Breaking   into  a building   and  committing    a felony  therein   contrary   to section  291  (a) of the  Penal  Code  as  read  with  section   260  of  the same  code  at the  first  count.    On  the  other hand,  the  2 colleagues    Robert   Lai  Lam  and  Rolland   Lai  lam,  were  charged   in the  second count  with  Retaining    Stolen   Property   contrary   to  section   309  (1) as  read  with  section   23 of the  Penal  Code.    These  2  individuals   were  not  named   in the  first  count.    In the  case  of AMELIE     BILDERS     VS  REPUBLIC      [2013]  SLR   511  the  Seychelles    Court  of  Appeal cited  with  approval   the  case  of R   VS AYRES    [184] AC 447 at 461 that:

" if the statement and particulars of the offence can be seen fairly to relate to and to be intended to charge a known and subsisting criminal offence but plead it in terms which are inaccurate, incomplete or otherwise imperfect, then the question whether conviction on that indictment can properly be affirmed under the proviso must depend on whether, in all circumstances it can be said with confidence that the particular error in the pleading cannot in any way have prejudiced or embarrassed the defendant"

[10]      In a more recent case by the same Court, their Lordship's  had the following to say:-

"We also have to consider whether the failure  to add section 22 of the Penal Code to the charge sheet is fatal.  Mrs M uzaffer has submitted that the fact that the charge did not especially refer to 22  of the Penal Code does not render it defective nor does it offend   section   111  of  thCriminal Procedure Code... We agree with her  that the omission of section 22 and section 23  from the charge sheet does not render the charge faulty  or bad in law.....  Both section 22  and section 23 are evidentiary provisions. They are also procedural provisions that specify the exact offence  with  which the accused persons are charged with and it is highly advisable that they be included in particulars of the offence with more than one accused person.  It would certainly make for  better clarity" (See MOHAMED   HASSAN  ALI  & 3 ORS  VS THE  REPUBLIC

S.C.S Cr  aoo 22 /2012).

[II]      Applying  the  above  cases  to  this  appeal  it is the  law that  unless  there  is a prejudice suffered  or  embarrassment   caused  to  the  appellant  the  mere  inclusion  of  inaccurate, incomplete   or  otherwise   imperfect   terms   in  the  statement   of  the  offence   and  the particulars  thereof  does  not  necessarily  render  a  conviction  on  appeal  null  and  void, unless the appellant was prejudiced or embarrassed  by the omission or imperfection.

However as we have seen the circumstances  of  this case are different  from the situations referred to by the Court of Appeal in the two cases I have above in that the appellant  was charged   separately   with  a  different  offence   in  separate   counts   from  his  two  other colleagues.   In the circumstance,  I find the charge  in the Lower Court was not defective, by not including section 23 in the statement of the offence in count 2.

[12]     As to whether the appellant was convicted  in his absence, the trial Court record shows the following entries:-


Republic:       Mr. H. Ally

Accused 3:    Present and unrepresented.

Accused 2:      Present and unrepresented.

Accused 1:      Still not have money to pay lawyer."

Then  the  learned  trial  Magistrate   took  the  plea  whereby   the  appellant   eventually    pleaded not guilty  to the  first  count  there   is a following   entry  on the  record:-

"Court:     Trial on 23/01/13 at 9 a.m half day and both accused  are released  on sambail conditions  and failure   of their  appearance  on next  trial date, case to proceed  in their absence".

[13]     On 23/01113,   the appellant  was absent  and the trial  Magistrate  went  ahead  to hear  the matter  in his absence  in line with here order of 2211 01 12.  A warrant of arrest was also issued against him.  Then on the 231101 13 about 9 months later from the date the warrant of  arrest  was  issued  against  him,  the  following  entry  was  made  on  the  lower  Court record:-


" 23/09/13

Republic:   Mr Revera

Accused   Number  1: Present and unrepresented,

Court: Informs  accused  that case (had)proceeded  in his absence  and judgment  pending and why did not he appear.

Accused  Number  1:- Relationship  between me and my wife.

Court:  Reasons  given for  not appearing  on the date fix for  trial is untenable  in all the circumstances   of the case  and hence  the judgment   maintained   as per proceedings   of trial conducted  in absences  of accused.

Court:  Accused  informed  as judgment   of Court of the 26/08/13. Court to accused- Any  mitigation.

Accusedi- Seeks    excuse  other persons  also involved,  39 years  old stevedore,  3 kids not residing  with me".

Court:   Sentence   reserved  till  24/10/13  a9 a.m.    Accused remanded at Montagne Posse.. "

[14]     The judgment  of the Court is dated the 26/08/13   and was read on the 24.09/15   and he was sentenced  to  10 years  imprisonment.     It appears  the  learned  trial  Magistrate  did  not inform the appellant about his right of appeal to the Supreme Court if he  so wished. It is my considered  view  that, the  learned trial Magistrate  was right to proceed  in the absence of the appellant,  as he had been informed of the trial date that the case will start on the  23110/20 13 and  in addition  he was  warned  that  if he does  not appear  the case would proceed  without him.   He did not show up on that day.  No reason was given for his  non attendance,  till  his  arrest  almost  9  months  later. This  situation  is covered  by section  133 A (I)  of the Criminal  Procedure Code and Article  19(12) of the Constitution. When he eventually  appeared  in Court, the reasons he gave for his absence  for 9 months were  found  unreasonable  and  inexcusable  by the  learned trial  Magistrate.    She decided not to re open the case.

[15]     It is my considered  view, that, the unexplained  absence of the accused  person on the day he had  been  told  that  the  case  will  be  heard,  coupled  with  his  continued  absence  for almost 9 months,  amounted  to a conduct  which  rendered  the hearing  of the case  in his presence impracticable within the meaning of article  19 (2) (i) of the Constitution.

[16]     As to the judgment  being delivered  in his absence,  the trial Magistrate  appears  to have delivered  the judgment  twice.   The first delivery  was on the 26/08113  in absence  of the accused   person.   Then   on  the  23/09/13 when  the  appellant   had  been  arrested,   the Magistrate said:-

"Court:    Accused informed of judgment of the Court of 26/08/13".

This in my view can only mean that, she read the judgment  again to the appellant  person and this time in his presence.  She then adjourned the case to 24/09/13 for sentence.

[17]     It is my considered  view  that,  the  second  reading  of  the judgment   cured  any  defects which  might  have  arisen  under section  142 (1)  of the Criminal  Procedure  Code  which necessitates    the  presence    of  the  accused    when   the  judgment     is  being   read.     It  is  also interesting  to note the provision   in section 142 (3) of the Criminal   Procedure  Code provides as follows:-

" 142 (2) No judgment  delivered  by any Court shall be deemed to be invalid by reason only of the absence  of any party  or his advocate  on  the day ..., or of any omission  to serve  .... the partieor their advocates or any of them, the notice of such day and place  ".

This  provision   in  my  view  validates  the  judgment   first  read  in  the  absence  of  the appellant.

I am aware that the lower court record is devoid of the note from the Magistrate  showing that he had explained  to the appellant  his right of appeal  in accordance  with section  142 (4) of the criminal Procedure Code.  However, I do not think the appellant was prejudiced by  this  omission,  as  he  duly  filed  his  appeal  within  a  month  of  his  conviction   and sentence.   His notice of appeal  was received  in this court Registry  on the  13/11/13.   He had written  it on the  15/10/13.  Hence it is my finding that the failure of the learned trial Magistrate to comply section  142 (4) of the Criminal Procedure  Code is not occasion any miscarriage of justice  or in any way prejudiced the appellant.

[18]     As to the severity of the sentence imposed on the appellant, the maximum sentence under section 291 (a) of the Criminal  Procedure Code is 14 years.  The learned trial Magistrate sentenced  him to  10 years  imprisonment  after a full trial.   In her ruling on sentence  she noted the mitigation  of the appellant.   She appeared  however,  to have felt bound by the minimum  mandatory  sentence  of  10 years,  and  she  felt that there  were  no exceptional circumstances  to warrant her impose a lesser sentence than the mandatory  minimum.   A close  perusal  of  the  record   indicates  that  the  appellant   was  a  first  offender.     The prosecutor  said so, on the 26/08/13.   Also the record shows that  13 of the  14 bags of the shark fins stolen by the appellant were recovered  and returned to the owner.   He also had 3 kids and had problems with his wife and had prayed for mercy.

[19]         It  is my considered  view  that,  in those  circumstances   the  appellant  deserved  a  lesser sentence than the minimum mandatory  imposed by the learned trial Magistrate  within the principles  of  PONOO case.  In  the  premises   I quash  the  sentence  of  10 years,  and substitute that with 7 years imprisonment.

[20]     All in all, the appeal  against  conviction  fails in totality,  and the appeal against  sentence succeeds to the above extent.

Order accordingly.


D. Akiiki-Kiiza

Judge  of the Supreme Court