Rogue cop lucky not to get longer sentence for armed robbery: court

The high court says a policeman found guilty of armed robbery is lucky to not have been sentenced to a prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years.
The high court says a policeman found guilty of armed robbery is lucky to not have been sentenced to a prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years.

A policeman who was on duty when he robbed a man in 2014 is lucky to have only been given a 12-year sentence for armed robbery.

This is the view of a Western Cape High Court judge on Monday, when he dismissed an appeal by Jaco Lottering against his conviction for armed robbery and a sentence of a dozen years in jail.

The prescribed minimum sentence for armed robbery is 15 years. However, the regional magistrate who sentenced Lottering found there were substantial and compelling circumstances permitting a deviation from this prescribed sentence.

Lottering was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

On appeal, judge Ashley Binns-Ward said Lottering could count himself fortunate that the trial court found good reason to depart from the prescribed sentence.

“My own assessment is that the commission of the crime of armed robbery by an on-duty policeman is an extremely serious matter — if anything, deserving of an aggravated sentence rather than one less onerous than the prescribed minimum,” Binns-Ward said in a judgement, in which acting judge Selwyn Hockey concurred.

Lottering had been identified because of the Springbok jacket he wore over his uniform on the day of the robbery.

The complainant, accompanied by his brother, had withdrawn cash from an ATM in Saldanha between 5am and 5.30am on Sunday July 24 2014.

After the withdrawal, the complainant and his brother walked back to the local township, where they were confronted by a marked police car.

The complainants had identified Lottering as a coloured or brown person who was conspicuous by the Springbok jacket that he was wearing over his police uniform, while the other accused was identified as a black African.

“These descriptions corresponded to the actual racial identities of the respective accused, and it was formally admitted at the trial that the appellant had been wearing a Springbok jacket at the relevant time,” said Binns-Ward.

The uncontested evidence was that when the complainant and his brother proceeded on their way after their conversation with the police officers at the stationary police van, the police vehicle drove past them twice as they continued to walk along the road.

It was after the complainant and his brother had left the formal roadway and taken a path or passageway through a bushy area that they were pounced upon by two men.

The complainant said he instantly recognised his assailant by the Springbok jacket he was wearing. He did not have the opportunity to identify the second assailant.

Lottering appeared with another policeman on a charge of armed robbery. Lottering's fellow colleague was acquitted because he was not identified by the complainant.

The high court said it was unable to find any misdirection by the magistrate on the evidence led before him.

“The magistrate established beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant had been the person who had robbed the complainant of the R2,800 that was taken from his wallet when his pockets were rifled as he lay face down on the ground with a gun held to his head,” said Binns-Ward.