Judge awards Sh6.8m to 20 people arrested and detained in police cell
It is common for police officers to patrol residential areas, arrest and detain those deemed to be lawbreakers.
However, police officers will hence forth have to exercise more caution when making such arrests if a recent High Court decision is to go by.
The state will now have to compensate Sh6.8 million to 20 people who were unlawfully arrested and detained by six police officers, three years ago.
Kajiado High Court judge Reuben Nyakundi awarded the 20 individuals, who included a lawyer who had gone to represent them, the compensation monies while faulting the police for unfairly infringing on their rights as arrested persons as well as that of being represented by an advocate.
Justice Nyakundi ruled that the monies awarded to the said accused persons is not only a mere compensation of violation of their rights but also exemplary so as to caution against such infringements in future.
The judge ordered that each of the 19 accused persons to be paid Sh 100,000 each as general compensation and another similar amount as exemplary damages, while lawyer Stephen Nzaku was awarded a sum of three million shillings.
“The act of apprehending a person without notice even if it’s for a short period has far reaching effect on his or her rights to human dignity,” said Justice Nyakundi.
On the fateful day, June 4, 2016, at about 9.00p.m, the 19 were arrested around Tumaini Supermarket area of Ongata Rongai in Kajiado County while engaging in their normal businesses and bundled into a police vehicle.
While three of them were threatened by the said officers and warned against making any phone calls, two others defied those orders and went ahead to contact Mr Nzaku to come to their rescue.
On his arrival, Mr Nzaku explained his reasons for showing up but he was at first threatened by the same officers as well as chased away before being locked up for allegedly creating disturbance.
His clients were at first held in the police vehicle until midnight when they were booked in a cell at the Ongata Rongai police station for the offence of being idle and disorderly.
While the lawyer was released on a cash bail of Sh 5,000 the next day, his clients were freed unconditionally with no charges preferred against them.
Mr Nzaku told court that he only learnt about charges leveled against him at the time of his release at around 10.35 am on June 6, 2016 exactly 12 hours after being in police custody.
His clients argued that their right to representation by a person of their choice was infringed upon by the arrest and detention of their advocate who had even offered to pay a cash bail for all of them in order to secure their freedom.
They also told court that the offence under which they were booked in and locked up for 15 hours was petty and did not warrant such long detention only to be released without any charges preferred against them.
They alleged that the police who arrested them were simply required to act in accordance with the law but failed to do so.
WAS DRUNK, ABUSIVE
But the police officers in their defense, told court that the lawyer was drunk when he walked into the station, used abusive language and refused to calm down hence the reason as to why he was arrested and later on charged in court.
The officers who were all based at the Ongata Rongai Police station including the OCS, his deputy and four of their juniors, denied having acted unlawfully.
According to the judge, courts ought to strongly condemn arbitrary use of police power on innocent citizens and pointed out that there was no rationale for arresting a lawyer who had explained the purpose of his presence at a police station.
“Gone are the days when the marginalized members of our society were bundled into police cells under this rubric of offences, incapable of constituting any criminal elements,” said Justice Nyakundi.
He added: “one wonders the sustainability of the offence of being idle and disorderly in our statute books save for the reason of being a fertile provision for the police to use it as a tool to infringe and or violate the right to equality and nondiscrimination under the constitution.”