Kenyans slam Cholmondeley sentence

May 14, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 – The eight-month sentence handed to Kenyan aristocrat Tom Cholmondeley for killing a poacher on his farm has been criticised as lenient by a cross section of Kenyans, including the defence and prosecution sides.

The Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko termed the sentence as ‘too lenient’ and vowed to ‘seek an enhancement of the sentence next week’.

“I disagree with the judge. I think the sentence meted was too lenient and does not meet the end of justice in this case,” he told Capital News shortly after Justice Muga Apondi read the verdict.

Mr Tobiko said that they are likely to seek the indulgence of the Court of Appeal to seek enhancement of the sentence, for the killing of poacher Robert Njoya.

“We want to consult and very likely seek for enhancement of the sentence. We are not allowed to appeal directly against the conviction but we can seek for correction of the sentence. This we will do as early as next week,” he added.

He said: “Although the judge was entitled to take into account the period the accused has been in remand, that still notwithstanding, the sentence still falls far below the just and fair sentence in this circumstances.”

Mr Tobiko cited previous cases, which he said could have been considered as precedent cases, and vowed to put their circumstances before the Court of Appeal for consideration in correcting Cholmondeley’s eight-month sentence.

“There are other cases which have been decided by the High court and by this judge himself, and we shall have an opportunity to put before the Court of Appeal all these precedents and the facts and circumstances of this case, and let the three judges decide as appropriate,” he said.

Cholmondeley’s lawyer Fred Ojiambo termed the sentence as ‘reasonable’ but indicated that he will appeal against both the conviction and the sentence.

“I think it is reasonable, taking all the circumstances and considering the judge was very detailed in the reasons why he imposed that sentence. I think everything taken into account, it is a reasonable sentence,” he said.

A section of Kenyan citizens in the public gallery also rejected the sentence, and demanded justice for Samson Ole Sisina, a game ranger shot dead previously by Cholmondeley – though a murder charge on the case was dropped by the State through a Nolle prosequi.

Some Maasai herdsmen who travelled all the way from Naivasha to follow Thursday’s proceedings flashed placards that read: ‘justice for Sisina’, justice for Sisina’ and ‘Butcher of Naivasha’.

One of the herdsman protested loudly saying: “There are three sets of justice in this country. Justice for the poor, justice for the rich and justice for the white people.”

The late Njoya’s family also expressed reservations over the sentence but said that they have accepted the court’s decision.

John Mwangi Mbugua, a brother to the late Njoya said they are happy that at least the court has found Cholmondeley guilty of an offence of manslaughter.

“The judge has given his ruling and sentence. We have nothing much to say but leave the matter to the Lord. We expect sentencing from God,” Mr Mbugua said.

Criminal Lawyer Cliff Ombetta who followed the day’s proceedings said that the judge had done a good job under the prevailing circumstances.

“The judge has tried to balance the immense public interest and also the provision of the law. He has used his discretion properly despite the heavy weight that lay on his head,” Mr Ombetta said.

Some Kenyans have however argued that the punishment was far below expectation.

“The judge should have handed him at least five years in custody. He should have commuted the time already served so that the end of justice is not only served but seen to be served. That sentence was too lenient,” accused Richard Munguti.


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