By Legal Aid Bureau

20-year-old Mphatso Kaonga from Nthalire in Chitipa, could not contain her excitement when the High Court sitting at Chitipa discharged her of manslaughter at the time of sentencing.

Mphatso was arrested when she was 18 years old on suspicion that she killed her 21-month-old daughter, and she was tried as a minor. She was taken to Court, where she admitted to committing the crime. She was then remanded to Chitipa Prison as she awaited sentencing.

Throughout the trial, the youngster was represented in Court by Legal Aid Bureau as she could not afford to hire a private lawyer. She however disclosed in her affidavit in support of submissions for sentencing that at the time the crime was committed, she was not mentally stable.

“These mental issues started when I suffered from cerebral malaria when I was a child. Since that time, I have struggled mentally and because of the mental issues, I stopped going to school at an early age,” reads part of the affidavit.

Mphatso got pregnant at the age of 17 and she did not know the father of her child. When the baby was born, she was staying with her grandmother in Nthalire, where life was hard. One day, her mental illnesses resurfaced. She took her daughter and accidentally killed her.

When she came back to her senses, she realized that what she did was wrong and she pleaded guilty to the charge of manslaughter. She recounts the moments and continues to narrate that what happened will forever haunt her.

Mitigating factors presented to Court by the Bureau included facts that the convict was a first-time offender, she was relatively young when the incident happened, she pleaded guilty as an expression of remorse and has been cooperating with authorities throughout the process of investigations and trial proceedings.

Passing the sentence, High Court Judge Justice Justuce Kishindo viewed that the matter has presented more mitigating factors than aggravating factors. As he agreed with the Bureau’s submissions, he pointed out that the Court would have considered a reformatory order but she is too old. He further highlighted that there is no doubt she did a terrible thing and she stayed in prison for three years considering its conditions.

The Court has since discharged Mphatso Kaonga on condition that she does not commit any offence in 12 months.

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