3 magistrates axed over inefficiency

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Board chairman Sharad Rao said Magistrates Margaret Gitonga of Thika, Walter Ndolo of Bungoma and Narok Chief Magistrate Wilkinson Njagi were unfit to continue serving in the Judiciary/FILE
Board chairman Sharad Rao said Magistrates Margaret Gitonga of Thika, Walter Ndolo of Bungoma and Narok Chief Magistrate Wilkinson Njagi were unfit to continue serving in the Judiciary/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 14 – The Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board (JMVB) has axed three magistrates in the ongoing screening of members of the Bench.

Board chairman Sharad Rao said Magistrates Margaret Gitonga of Thika, Walter Ndolo of Bungoma and Narok Chief Magistrate Wilkinson Njagi were unfit to continue serving in the Judiciary following complaints of gross misconduct, including unfairness and inefficiency.

The board determined that Njagi had issued a wrong judgement when he served as magistrate in Kerugoya. This, Rao said, had left the complainant suffering as they sought justice in courts and sometimes in prison.

“The evidence established two serious failures on his part. Firstly, the magistrate’s attitude toward his sentencing error was unacceptable. He had learned about his error shortly after he had delivered his judgement, but had not taken any steps to rectify the mistake. Nor had he taken any corrective action after he had learned that the wrongful sentence had not been rectified on appeal,” Rao asserted in reference to Njagi.

The board was also concerned that Njagi had been implicated in failing to clear a debt yet he went ahead to preside over a case in which the complainant against him was the accused.

“It was improper and totally unacceptable for the magistrate to sit in a matter where the accused was someone with whom he has recently had commercial dealings and who was claiming that the magistrate still owed him money,” Rao explained.

The board was dissatisfied that Ndolo mishandled a case where a minor had been defiled after he (Ndolo) was allegedly corrupted by a relative of the accused who also worked in the court.

Ndolo instead of issuing a life imprisonment as should have been the case, decided to have the accused jailed for three years in what he termed as indecent assault yet it was rape of a minor.

“The magistrate relied on a technicality that was not core to grant the accused a lighter sentence. Defiling a minor 10 years of age is a very callous and insensitive act,” Rao asserted.

For Margaret Gitonga, her verdict was arrived at after she informed the board that she would not appear for vetting to clarify accusations of inefficiency due to frequent absence from duty and short appearances in court.

Out of the 28 magistrates vetted, 25 were declared fit to continue serving.

Next week, the board will announce its verdict on other magistrates yet to be vetted in the second batch.

Despite the ongoing process, Rao said the board has been facing capacity challenges after the exit of foreign judges who are yet to be replaced.

He said after appointment of the board members, it was possible to have three panels to do the vetting but since their exit, the board can only afford one panel which is slowing the vetting process.

South African Judge Albie Sachs, Zambian Judge Fredrick Chomba and Ghana’s Georgina Wood were the foreign judges in the JMVB.

“With the absence of the requisite number of non-citizen judges, the board is not able to constitute the three panels. This has greatly slowed down the work,” he complained.

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