The Director of Public Prosecutions: Transvaal v David Swanepoel and Another

Supreme Court of Appeal -261/2006 Hearing date: 03 November 2006
Judgment date: 01 December 2006

A ppeal against sentence – Imposition of direct imprisonment on first respondent imposed – Coupled with special order providing for psychological and psychiatric therapy in the absence of any power to do so or relevant expert evidence – Such amounting to misdirection – Sentence replaced by sentence of 20 years imprisonment – Sentence of house arrest for one year subject to conditions imposed on second respondent who had been in custody for 17 months awaiting trial – No basis for interference.

Media Summary of Judgment

The Supreme Court of Appeal today allowed an appeal brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Transvaal against a sentence imposed by Mr Acting Justice Van Rooyen, sitting in the Pretoria High Court, on David Swanepoel, who had been convicted of murdering and robbing one Allen Sim.

Swanepoel was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment and the correctional service authorities were ordered to see to it that he received therapy once a week from a psychologist or social worker and once a month from a psychiatrist.

The Supreme Court of Appeal said that the trial court had no power to order the correctional service authorities as to what treatment a convicted prisoner should receive. It also said that Swanepoel had been guilty of various serious offences calling for a sentence of at least twenty years. It said that the trial court had apparently assumed that it would be safe to release Swanepoel after fourteen years if he received the therapy the authorities were ordered to arrange for him to receive.

The Supreme Court of Appeal said that there was no basis for this apparent assumption. No expert evidence had been given, only evidence by a social worker who had spoken to a psychiatrist at Weskoppies Hospital and reported what he had said.

The Supreme Court of Appeal set aside sentence imposed on Swanepoel and replaced it with a sentence of twenty years imprisonment.

The appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions against the sentence of one year’s house arrest imposed on Swanepoel’s co-accused, Salmon Ignatius Basson, who was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to the murder and robbery and who was held to have acted under the influence of Swanepoel, was dismissed. The Supreme Court of Appeal said that there was no basis for interfering with the trial court’s discretion.