Kenya rancher jailed for 8 months

May 14, 2009 12:00 am
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, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 – Kenyan aristocrat Tom Cholmondeley has been sentenced to eight months imprisonment for manslaughter in a ruling that ends one of Kenya’s most compelling courtroom battles.

Justice Muga Apondi ruled that Mr Cholmondeley would be given a lenient sentence to “reflect on his life and change to an appropriate direction”.

“This court has taken into consideration that the accused has been held in custody for slightly over three years since he was arrested,” Justice Apondi said.

“I hereby sentence the accused to eight months imprisonment,” he concluded and granted the rancher the right to appeal.

Mr Cholmondeley was found guilty of manslaughter last Thursday for the killing of stonemason Robert Njoya three years ago.

The manslaughter charge in Kenya carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment but no minimum allowing the judge discretion to let Cholmondeley go immediately.

Justice Apondi also declined to entertain Mr Cholmondeley’s offer to assist Mr Njoya’s family, saying the matter could best be addressed in a civil court.

“Courts are likely to be mistaken when they base their leniency purely on financial resources or largesse of the offenders.”

In their submissions on Tuesday, the defence team led by lawyer Fred Ojiambo had said: “the accused, his parents Lord and Lady Delamare, and the entire family share the anguish that has been shared by the Njoya family. (They are willing) to meet the material and spiritual needs that exist on both sides.”

While delivering the sentence, Justice Apondi considered submissions by the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko who told the court on Tuesday: “He has no record of previous conviction and should be treated as a first time offender.”

Mr Tobiko urged the court to consider the Principle of Proportionality in sentencing: “(that) the sentence imposed should reflect the seriousness of the offence.”

He also invoked the principle of ‘Equality before the Law’ “that sentencing decisions should treat offenders equally, irrespective of their wealth, their race, their colour, sex, employment or family status.

This bore direct reference to the aristocratic lineage of Mr Cholmondeley who hails from Kenya’s most prominent early settler, great-grandfather Lord Delamere.

Mr Ojiambo, on his part, had urged the court to “consider the conduct of the accused person prior and after the offence for which he has been convicted.”

“The accused, his parents Lord and Lady Delamare, and the entire family share the anguish that has been shared by the Njoya family. (They are willing) to meet the material and spiritual needs that exist on both sides,” the lawyer continued.

Justice Apondi reduced the initial murder charge to manslaughter, citing lack of sufficient circumstantial evidence.

Mr Cholmondeley had previously gotten off on murder charges after allegedly killing a Maasai game park ranger in 2005 where he argued legitimate self-defence.

The first case was dropped for lack of evidence, fuelling accusations from the local community that a colonial-era two-speed Judiciary was still in force in the country.

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