NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 10 – Three Stephjoy students being held over an arson attack in which three of their colleagues died will be detained at the Tigoni Police Station for another 10 days.
The State had wanted the students held for another two weeks for further investigations, but High Court Judge Ngenye Macharia granted 10 more days and directed that they should be back in court on August 21.
“The application having been brought on the seventh of this month, three days have already been spent and I opine that within those three days investigations have been going on. The respondents shall continue to be detained at the Tigoni Police Station for the next 10 days with effect from today. The respondents shall be detained in conducive cells with mattresses and blankets and separate from adults,” she ruled.
She further barred anybody other than their families from visiting them.
“The respondents shall not be visited by adults other than their parents or siblings or close relatives with the permission of their parents for the period of their detention. That the OCS Tigoni Police Station must ensure that the respondents are arraigned in a court of law not later than August 21 this year unless for any good reason this order is extended,” she said.
She however recognised that it is the right of an accused person to be presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty as provided under Article 50 (2a) of the Constitution.
“We have to bear in mind that until a person has been tried, gone through the process of the court, they are innocent and should be treated that way. However, in my view, that right does not preclude the rights of fair investigations which must be accorded to the police officers,” she said.
“Another issue of consideration is also the rights of the accused person as provided for under Article 49 (1h) of the Constitution which is to say that every accused person has the right to a fair trial unless there are any compelling reasons so in this respect the respondents’ counsel argued before the court that even if these respondents have not been charged, the court can release them on a bond or any other reasonable terms.”
She explained that the court cannot ignore the fact that the needed witnesses cannot be traced within one or two days as alluded to by the respondents’ counsel and stressed that it would be important to give the police sufficient time to look for them.
“In this case, I have taken into account that there is no dispute that there was a fire at the Stephjoy Boys High School in which three students died and as was submitted by Miss Mwaniki for the applicant, majority of the prosecution witnesses are students of that school and the students have since left the school after the fire to their respective homes,” she said.
Justice Macharia also underscored the fact that the three students cannot be released just yet since doing so may jeopardize the investigations.
“Having schooled with them, being either schoolmates or classmates, they know where generally these students come from so having released on bond, they are likely to seek them and as at now, the prosecution has already disclosed that the key witnesses to their case are the students who particularly had beds near the source of the fire and obviously, they know where the fire began in dormitory number eight and they will look for them. So for that reason, I think that their application is merited,” she stated.
State Counsel Catherine Mwaniki had requested for more time for police to gather more evidence and pledged that the three boys will be placed in a separate section of the police station set aside for children.
Defence counsel representing one of the boys had however objected to the request and stated that no charges had been proffered against his client and that he had already been detained for seven days and a further 14 days would go against his fundamental rights.