Thursday, May 14, 2009

Kenyans Outraged at Light Sentence for Killing of African Man by White Settler Heir

Kenya court jails Delamere kin for eight months

Tom Cholmondeley listened to High Court Judge Muga Apondi sentence him to eight months imprisonment for killing Robert Njoya in 2006

By ANTHONY KARIUKI and JILLO KADIDAPosted Thursday, May 14 2009 at 11:56

In Summary
Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko acknowledges Mr Cholmondeley was a first offender

Judge Apondi had initially reduced Cholmondeley’s murder charge and convicted him for manslaughter
Lord Delamere's heir Tom Cholmondeley has been sentenced to eight months imprisonment for killing stonemason Robert Njoya.

High Court Judge Muga Apondi handed down the light sentence on Thursday, two days after hearing final submissions from both the prosecution and defence.

"In view of the total circumstances of the case and the guiding principles to sentencing, I hereby wish to impose a light sentence on the accused to allow him reflect on his life and change to an appropriate direction," said Judge Apondi.

"The upshot is that I hereby sentence the accused to 8 months imprisonment."

The judge said the fact that Mr Cholmondeley has " been held in custody for slightly over three years since he was arrested" and had no malice aforethought (intent to kill) prompted him to issue the light sentence.

He said that the prosecution had acknowledged that Mr Cholmondeley made desperate attempts to save the life of Mr Njoya, including calling Kenya Wildlife Service rangers and the police after the fatal shooting. He also offered his car to rush the victim to hospital.

The Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko also agreed that Mr Cholmondeley was a first offender.

These two mitigating factors were crucial in determining Cholmondeley's prison term, said Judge Apondi.

The judge said Mr Cholmondeley reserves the right to appeal the sentence.

The judge's ruling, in effect, means that Mr Cholmondeley will now serve for eight months, starting Thursday, on top of the three years he has been in custody at Kamiti Maximum Prison.

Defence lawyer Fred Ojiambo said the judge was very just in what he pronounced.

“All in all it was a just sentence. The sentence starts now and I expect my client will return to Kamiti,” he said.

He did not indicate whether he will appeal or not.

However, Mr Tobiko said he will appeal for enhancement of the sentence, which he termed as too lenient.

He said the sentence does not meet the ends of justice since an innocent life was lost.

"The discretion of sentence lies with the judge but eight months is far below the mark. We will need to put precedents before the court of appeal in our efforts to enhance and correct judgment," said the DPP.

Judge Apondi had initially reduced Cholmondeley’s murder charge and convicted him for manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and no minimum.

He found that Cholmondeley shot and killed Mr Njoya three years ago, but spared him death by hanging because a murder charge could not be sustained.

A murder conviction carries a mandatory death sentence.

Mr Justice Apondi relied on the evidence of Mr Carl Tundo, who was with Cholmondeley on the fateful day, to rule that the accused shot and killed Mr Njoya.

He found that the accused did not have malice aforethought (intention to kill) when he shot Mr Njoya at his Soysambu ranch on May 10, 2006.

Thursday, May 14, 2009
14:59 Mecca time, 11:59 GMT

Kenyan landowner sentenced

Protesters in the court were denouncing the sentence, arguing the justice system favoured the rich

The heir to Kenya's most famous white settler family has been sentenced to eight months in prison for shooting dead a black poacher.

Under the Kenyan legal system, Thomas Cholmondeley, 40, will still serve the sentence despite the fact he has already been in a Nairobi prison since mid-2006.

Cholmondeley stood as he listened to the verdict which was read to a courtroom in the Kenyan capital on Thursday.

Robert Njoya, a stonesmason, was shot dead in 2006 after Cholmondeley found him trespassing on his Rift Valley ranch.

Muga Apondi of Kenya's high court said he was giving a "light" punishment since Cholmondeley had been in prison for nearly two and a half years and that he had showed concern for the victim after he had shot him.

"I hereby sentence the accused to eight months in prison," Apondi said.

"I hereby wish ... to impose a light sentence on the accused to allow him to reflect on his life."

Cholmondeley has only admitted to shootings dogs on his ranch.

Protesters in court shouted in outrage as the judgement was read, some raising placards saying the justice system favoured the rich.

Cholmondeley, the great-grandson of Lord Delamere, formerly one of Kenya's biggest landowners and one of its most prominent early settler families from Britain, was found guilty of manslaughter in the 2006 killing on his family's ranch.

The case had ignited resentment among many black Kenyans angry at the extent of white land ownership more than 40 years after the country gained its independence from Britain.

Much of the Kenya's best land was taken over by the British government during colonial times.

After independence in 1963, many departing settlers transferred the land to Africans, with Britain underwriting some of the costs, but some, including Cholmondeley's family, kept their land and became Kenyan citizens.

A previous murder case against Cholmondeley, in which he was accused of killing a wildlife ranger in April 2005, was dropped due to lack of evidence, sparking an outcry from many Kenyans.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

White Kenyan aristocrat jailed for poacher death

by Otto Bakano Otto Bakano

NAIROBI (AFP) – A Kenyan court on Thursday sentenced Thomas Cholmondeley, scion of the country's foremost family of white settlers, to eight months in prison for shooting dead a black poacher on his ranch.

Nairobi high court judge Muga Apondi said he was imposing a "a light sentence" on Cholmondeley "to allow him to reflect on his life and change to an appropriate direction."

Cholmondeley had faced a murder charge for shooting Robert Njoya on the family's huge Rift Valley ranch in May 2006, but the charge was reduced to manslaughter after the court ruled there was no "malice aforethought".

Apondi said that the killing was not premeditated, that Cholmondeley had shown concern for the victim at the time of the accident and that he had already spent 1,097 days in custody.

But prosecutor Keriako Tobiko complained that the sentence was too lenient and that he would appeal.

"In all the circumstances eight months is quite far below the mark," Tobiko told reporters, announcing that he would seek a sentence "that is fair and just."

There were howls of protest in the court after the sentence was announced from a group of Maasai whose kin Cholmondeley killed in a separate incident in 2005 but was acquitted for lack of evidence.

"I killed two dogs: Ole Sisina and Njoya," read one placard held up by the group in reference to the victim in the latest case and the Maasai game ranger, Sam Ole Sisina, who was shot by Cholmondeley.

Heir of Kenya's most famous white settler, Cholmondeley, 40, better known in the region as "Tom", had argued self-defence over the 2005 shooting and the case was dropped for lack of evidence. That sparked accusations from the local black Kenyan community that a colonial-era two-track judiciary was still in force in the country.

"They should have left him walk free instead of the eight month sentence," said Nickson Ole Nkurruna, a Maasai in Naivasha town, some 90 kilometres (55 miles) northwest of the capital Nairobi where the ranch is located.

Timothy Ole Muntet, another Maasai man, said: "Cholmondeley has killed two people already and there is no reason why he will not kill again once he is free."

The Eton-educated aristocrat was convicted last week of manslaughter over the death of Robert Njoy on his 55,000-acre ranch.

Lay assessors had found Cholmondeley not guilty in March. But Apondi rejected their views and cast doubt on or dismissed some witness accounts.

Defence lawyer Fred Ojiambo said the eight month sentence was "reasonable."

He had argued in his final submission that the victim died due to incompetence and lack of proper medical attention at the hospital Cholmondeley had rushed him to after the shooting.

The chiselled-jaw, towering Cholmondeley sat emotionless as the judge read out the sentence, gazing at the ceiling through his thin rimless glasses.

Cholmondeley's trial was one of the most high-profile in the country's post-independence history, re-opening the wounds of Kenya's colonial legacy.

What captured people's imagination was the case's setting in "Happy Valley", the lush hills where Cholmondeley's great-grandfather Lord Delamere presided over white settlers whose decadent lifestyle was chronicled in the book and film "White Mischief".

While they have had to relinquish much of their political sway, a minority of the 30,000-strong white Kenyan community still enjoy a special status as the quaintly obsolescent heirs of Karen Blixen's adventurous, refined friends and repositories of a certain Kenyan mythology.

Before his downfall, the safari-loving Cholmondeley was the living symbol of that dying breed of white Africans and his trial highlighted the life of luxury still enjoyed by some white Kenyans which remains beyond the imagination of most of the black population.

Cholmondeley was Kenya's junior motorcross champion and is said to have once been gored by a buffalo on his way to a paragliding launching site in the Maasai Mara wildlife reserve.

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