Exploring sentencing purposes, principles and practices in Namibia

Author Justice Christie Liebenberg and Ndjodi Ndeunyema

ISSN: 1996-2118
Affiliations: LLB (Stellenbosch). Judge of the High Court of Namibia. The authors are grateful to Lotta Ambunda-Nashilundo and Thomas Kasita for their research assistance on this article; MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice (Oxford). DPhil Law Candidate, University of Oxford.
Source: South African Journal of Criminal Justice, Volume 33 Issue 1, p. 23 – 44


This article critiques the traditional purposes of sentencing found in Namibian law, as developed through the courts: retribution, deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation. The article proposes that more developed sentencing purposes be legislatively prescribed. Sentencing purposes are to be distinguished from the three principles of sentencing whereby courts are required to consider the crime, the offender and the interests of society. This is the so-called triad of Zinn. The article offers reform proposals to overcome its finding that the triad of Zinn is too basic, legally vague and insufficiently rigorous, as well as to ensure that sentencing principles are more responsive to victims of crime. The article also critiques the Supreme Court’s decisions on the unconstitutionality of life sentences and mandatory minimum sentences and assesses the impact of these decisions on sentencing practices in Namibia. The article concludes by evaluating potential legislative and policy reforms to address the issue of inconsistent approaches to sentencing in Namibia.