The Blantyre First Grade Magistrate’s Court yesterday committed to the High Court sentencing of a case in which police officer Andrew Chagaga was convicted of raping a 17-year-old university student in a cell.
The committal follows an application by the State to have the case in a court with higher jurisdiction if Chagaga, who committed the offence at Limbe Police Station last December, is to get a stiffer sentence than the maximum14 years which a magistrate court can mete out.
In his judgement, presiding first grade magistrate Soka Banda said the court was convinced with the State’s submission that the convict deserved a stiffer penalty.
He said the fact that the accused was a police officer and took advantage of the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (Mubas) student to rape her before dumping her at midnight in the streets did qualify for aggravating factors.
The court convicted the officer after establishing that the complainant had indeed been raped twice and evidence pointed to Chagaga.
Banda observed that the current sentencing trends in sexual offences ranged from 20 years and above; hence, handing down a sentence of 14 years or less to the convict would not be commensurate with the committed offence.
Banda, whose ruling was read on his behalf by senior resident magistrate Godfrey Balaka, then ordered the court records to be transmitted to the High Court for sentencing.
Chagaga was convicted on July 15 this year and has since been on remand at Chichiri Prison in Blantyre waiting for sentencing.
According to court records, Chagaga raped the girl, a student at Mubas—formerly The Polytechnic, while in a police cell at Limbe Police Station on the night of December 13 2020 after she was picked for allegedly walking at night.
Prosecution lawyers Chikondi Chijozi from Southern Africa Litigation Centre (Salc), Ruth Kaima from the Centre for Human Rights Education, Advice and Assistance (Chreaa) and Trevor Mphalale from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) described the ruling as commendable.
“We are looking forward to making our submissions for sentencing before the High Court. We are hoping for a speedy process so that there is closure in the matter,” said Chijozi in an interview yesterday.
Thom Phiri, child protection officer for Mulelewaka Foundation—one of several organisations that have been giving moral and psychological support to the girl since trial started—yesterday also expressed delight with the committal.
“As we have stressed throughout, a stiffer penalty is fundamental to deter other men in uniform with similar behaviour. Police officers are supposed to protect children’s rights and not abuse them. We will not tire in ensuring that children have a safe childhood and nobody uses their position to abuse them,” he said.