Two teenage boys who were arrested last week for forging documents and using them to solicit money from people appeared in court Monday where one denied the charge while the other showed remorse and apologized.
The teenagers (names withheld) were charged of forging introductory letters in the name of Likuni Private Secondary School and Lilongwe District Council endorsing them as orphans in dire need of school fees.
The 19-year-old who solicited K84, 700 from unsuspecting members of the public apologized for swindling Mzuzu Court’s Principal Resident Magistrate Gladys Gondwe out of her K5, 000.
State Prosecutor Sergeant Wyson Phiri told the Mzuzu Child Justice Court that the boys’ conduct was contrary to section 353 (d) (i) of the Penal Code.
He said the 19-year-old initially approached Gondwe with the documents on 15 October, 2014 at Mzuzu Shoprite and told her that the school fees was K70, 000 but had a shortfall of K5, 000.
“The magistrate gave him the K5, 000 and he assured her that he would go back to school immediately. He got her phone number and promised to call her as soon as he left for school,” Sergeant Phiri said.
He added that later in the evening, Gondwe received a phone call from the young man.
“She thought he wanted to tell her that he had left for school. But she was surprised that the boy referred to her as ‘sweetheart’, and the noise in the background indicated that he was calling from a drinking joint.
“When the magistrate asked him why he was referring to her as ‘sweetheart’, he cut the line after realizing that he had mistakenly dialed her number,” Sergeant Phiri told the court.
Phiri added that on 26 January, 2015, Gondwe was at Mzuzu Shoprite again and the boy approached her with the documents asking for money.
He said the boy did not recognize her but Gondwe recognized him and became suspicious. She advised him to meet her the following day and when they met, she was with a police officer who arrested him.
Phiri further explained that a day later, the boy was visited at the police custody by the colleague, 16, who carried a bag and looked suspicious. He said when police searched the bag they found similar forged letters and arrested him, too.
However, the 16-year-old pleaded not guilty to the charge and his case will continue on a later day where the state will present more evidence.
After the 19-year-old pleaded guilty and was subsequently convicted, Phiri asked the court for a stiffer penalty saying such cases were rampant and had an effect of discouraging well-wishers from helping the genuine needy orphans.
“There are only two of us (with my younger brother) left in the family without any support. Please, forgive me. I promise that once set free, I will never commit a crime again. I will go to the village to do farming with my grandparents.
“I also apologize to the magistrate for what I did to her. I promise that I will never repeat this mistake,” said the boy in mitigation.
First Grade Magistrate Anthony Banda then adjourned the court to 1: 30 pm for sentencing.
Passing sentence in the afternoon in his chamber, Banda said he had taken into consideration both the boy’s mitigation factors and the prosecution’s request for a stiffer penalty.
He said the boy showed remorse by apologizing to Malawi Government, head teacher of Likuni Private, Lilongwe District Commissioner and to the Principal Resident Magistrate Gondwe for the misconduct.
Banda, however, said he concurred with the prosecution that the boy’s conduct would discourage people with a heart to assist from assisting the genuine needy.
“The maximum sentence for this offence is three years imprisonment with hard labour (IHL). But taking into account the mitigating factors, I will be lenient with you… You will serve 12 months.
“You will be sent to a prison for young offenders at Kachere in Lilongwe for you to be reformed. But upon release, you should be reformed. As you said earlier, after the release, go to the village and join your people in farming,” Banda said.-– Reporting by McCarthy Mwalwimba, ManaFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :