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Cable thief gets 12 years behind bars

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The Port Nolloth Regional Court sentenced a 40-year-old Northern Cape man to 12 years direct imprisonment for tampering with essential infrastructure.

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THE PORT Nolloth Regional Court sentenced 40-year-old Philemon Hermanus to 12 years direct imprisonment for tampering with essential infrastructure.

The sentence emanates from an incident in the early hours of May 31 last year, when the police in Port Nolloth received a complaint from a member of the public about a banging sound coming from Burden Street.

The police responded swiftly and found two people on a stepladder leaning against a telephone pole. Upon spotting the lights of the police vehicle, the suspects ran away and the police gave chase. The police managed to apprehend Hermanus, but his co-accused managed to get away.

At the scene, the police found the stepladder, an axe and Telkom copper cable that was dug up and cut.

Hermanus was charged with one count of tampering with essential infrastructure, alternatively attempted theft of copper cable.

At the start of the trial, even with enough evidence against him, Hermanus chose to plead not guilty. He told the court that he was on the scene to steal gravel to look for uncut diamonds and that he heard someone banging against a pole in the dark.

The court rejected his version of events and he was found guilty on the charge of tampering with essential infrastructure.

As part of fortifying its case against Hermanus, the prosecution called a technician who works for Telkom, who testified as to the costs involved in restoring the damage caused by the tampering, as well as the effect of the tampering on the community.

In aggravation of sentence, regional court prosecutor Basil Kock highlighted the prevalence of the offence as well as the fact that this is now a national problem that has become so serious that legislation was enacted to allow it to fall within the ambit of the minimum legislation.

The prosecutor further argued the importance of the courts sentencing perpetrators of such crimes to appropriate sentences that will send a clear message to other transgressors, and to show that the government is serious about fighting essential infrastructure-related crimes.

In sentencing, the court found that there were substantial and compelling circumstances to deviate from the prescribed minimum sentence and Hermanus was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.

The National Prosecuting Authority thanked the South African Police Service, particularly the investigating officer, Constable Rogerio Esau, who ensured that the investigation was completed properly to ensure that the accused was sentenced appropriately.

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