As alleged victim seeks for court to reject bail
MASERU – A high profile team of lawyers engaged to defend Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Paseka Mokete, who faces sexual harassment charges from a colleague, managed to secure free bail for him. The Crown, Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) case investigators and the complainant, Inspector ’Makatleho Mpheto, sharply differed over granting Mokete bail in the matter heard before the Maseru Magistrate Court on Tuesday this week – with Mphetho seeking to the senior policeman’s release. The 47-year-old Mokete stands accused of contravening the Sexual Offence Act, a charge Magistrate Senekale Qobolo read to him and informed him of his right to bail and legal representation. The charges are: sexual offence, malicious damage to property and assault as an alternative charge.
Part of the charge sheet reads, “the said accused is charged with the crime of sexual offence in contravention of Section 3 (2) of Sexual Offence Act No 3/2003. In that upon or about 29th day of April, 2020 and at or near National Assembly in the Maseru District, the said accused did unlawfully commit an unlawful sexual act to No 104477 Inspector Mphetho, a Mosotho female adult aged 42 years by touching her buttocks without her consent and the accused did commit the offence as aforesaid.” Alternative to the sexual offence, Mokete is facing an assault charge for contravening Section 30 read with 109 of the Penal Code Act No. 6/2010. It is alleged that on the same day (April 29, 2020), Mokete unlawfully applied force by pulling and dragging Inspector Mphetho and thereby assaulting her.
The charge sheet further states, “the said accused is charged with crime of malicious damage to property in contravention of Section 72 read with Section 109 of the Penal Code Act No 6/ 2010. In that upon or about 29th day of April, 2020, and at or near National Assembly in the Maseru district, the said accused did unlawfully and without lawful exercise and acting with the intention damage the property of Inspector Mphetho by tearing a pair of trousers of the said Inspector Mphetho.” Mokete’s legal team of Advocate Mabatšoeneng Hlaele, Attorneys Koili Ndebele and Monaheng Rasekoai, however, managed to secure his freedom.
This after the Crown eventually informed the court that they were no longer opposed to bail after the complainant reconsidered her earlier position. During the short court proceedings, Advocate Pontšo Jankie, for the Crown, had initially told the court that though the prosecution and investigators were not opposed to bail she had been informed by the investigating officers that the complainant was against granting of bail. “We have no objection to bail My Lord, and so is the investigator; but the complainant is here to give her views as this is a sexual offence that we are dealing with,” Jankie said.
This prompted Magistrate Qobolo to adjourn the court for a few minutes to allow the prosecution time to consult Mpheto to ascertain the grounds for opposition, as the law provides. After the adjournment, Mphetho withdrew her opposition having consulted with the prosecution, and Advocate Jankie told the court that after deliberations the complainant was no longer opposed to the granting of bail but wished to put it on record that since the alleged incident she had since been transferred from her post at the National Assembly – through a cellphone call and wishes to put the development to the attention of the court.
Attorney Rasekoai challenged the submission on the grounds that any information that was not meant to motivate or oppose bail should not be accepted by the court. Rasekoai said Mphetho should only tell the court whether she was against or for the bail so that she could be cross examined in the event that she brought any other information. Motivating Mokete’s bail application, Rasekoai said the accused was a head of a law enforcement agency and a second chief in command of the LMPS. He also said he Mokete was an officer of the court duly admitted and a family man who had no reason to flee.
He also told the court that Mokete held an interest to clear his name and understood that he needed not to interfere with Crown witnesses. Magistrate Qobolo inquired about the status of investigations, to which Jankie replied that they were complete, and Mokete was admitted to bail. “After considering the submissions, the court grants bail for the reasons that: there are no grounds for opposing bail and that the accused is a serving police officer,” said Qobolo. The bail conditions are that Mokete should attend remands, stand trial and that he should not interfere with crown witnesses. The matter was postponed to July 24 for the parties to secure hearing dates.