BELIEF IN WITCHCRAFT AS A MITIGATING FACTOR IN SENTENCING S v Latha 2012 (2) SACR 30 (ECG)
Keywords:Supernatural belief, witchcraft, mitigate punishment
Supernatural belief does not sit easily with the law. Squaring such belief with legal concepts such as the reasonable person is a particularly vexing task. Nevertheless, it is necessary for the courts to take account of such belief as a fact of the South African society. Belief in witchcraft is an ongoing and widespread phenomenon, giving rise to the question whether such belief can play a role in exculpating, or mitigating the punishment of those who engage in criminal conduct as a consequence of such belief. A recurring problem for the courts is how to deal with the situation where a genuine belief in witchcraft provides the motivation for the killing of a suspected witch or wizard in order to protect or defend the interests of the accused or another person. Can such a belief mitigate punishment? This problem arose in the case of S v Latha (2012 (2) SACR 30 (ECG)).
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