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Child trafficker gets 24 months imprisonment

The Blantyre Magistrate Court has found guilty and sentenced a child trafficker Mateyu Salikuchepa to 24 months imprisonment with hard labour for the nine counts of trafficking 21 children.

The court said though the offence attracts life imprisonment, it applied the degree of mercy to impose a lesser sentence considering that a first offender deserves a suspended sentence.

The convict was on July 29, 2015, arrested and charged with offences of trafficking 21 children from Mozambique to Mangochi for the purpose of using them as casual labourers in tobacco farms.

“The evidence tendered in this court was overwhelming. I, therefore, found the accused guilty of each of the nine counts for transferring, receipt, harbouring, exploiting the children,” ruled Senior Resident Magistrate Viva Nyimba yesterday.

Nyimba said the accused provided space at Wenela Bus Depot while the other accused Luka Chidothi who is at large, was away looking for means of transport to transfer the survivors of child trafficking from Blantyre to Mangochi.

Though the court realised that the State lacks comprehensive legislations dealing with such offences, except for very minor cases of exploiting children, Nyimba borrowed European court cases to come up with the judgement.

He said considering all the elements of child trafficking compounding with the evidence brought before the court, “it was convincing that the convict and Luka Chidothi had a common intention to traffic the children.”

He said the convict took part physically transporting the children from Mozambique to Malawi and that police were informed that the children were going to a football match in Mangochi while the convict knew what was taking place.

The court said evidence tendered by the state witnesses was neither cross examined nor challenged by the convict or the defence counsel.

When sentencing the convict Nyimba said the offence attracted life imprisonment.

However, Nyimba said: “The court is given discretion of sentencing convicts considering the mitigating factors. I hereby sentence the convict to 24 months for each count but the sentence should be served concurrently since the offences were committed at the same time.”

He said the sentence is subject for confirmation at the High Court and gave the convict liberty to appeal within 30 days. In reaction to the sentencing, defence counsel Yasin Domasi said he would appeal against the conviction.

“The sentence is just fair considering that the offence attracts a life imprisonment, we do not fault the Magistrate on that,” Domasi said.

While Deputy Spokesperson for Blantyre Police Grace Mwale said the police were happy with the sentencing and conviction. The convict hails from Traditional Authority Nankumba in Mangochi while the survivors come from a place called Toto in Milanje district in Mozambique.

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