The court considered an appeal against a prior criminal conviction.
The appellants had extracted gold ore from a gold mine and were intercepted and arrested by the police. They were charged under s368(2) of the Mines and Minerals Act for illegally prospecting for minerals. They pleaded guilty, were convicted and sentenced to the mandatory two-year prison sentence. They appealed on the ground that they were convicted on a charge which was not supported by the facts admitted between them and the State.
The court had to consider whether the appellants’ plea of guilty was sufficient to convict them for contravening s368(2) of the Act. The court found that courts have a duty to protect the rights of the accused and to ensure that they fully understand the charge and the essential elements, as well as that they genuinely, and unequivocally admit to the charge, its essential elements, and the facts alleged by the prosecution.
In this case, the lower court simply accepted the uninformed admission of guilt by the accused as proof and disregarded the fact that the charge was not proved by the facts relied upon by the State.
Further, the court found that the appellants did not prospect for minerals, they simply stored gold ore from a known mine, thus contravening s379 not s368.
Accordingly, the appeal was upheld.