Reprieve for official in collapsed house case
A county official has successfully blocked his prosecution on negligence and manslaughter charges after a building collapsed two years ago killing four people.
City Planning director Justus Kathenge has obtained a permanent stay against his prosecution over the tragedy that occurred in Pipeline estate.
The Director of Public Prosecutions wanted Mr Kathenge prosecuted alongside Mr Bernard Gakobo, the owner of the building that collapsed on June 14, 2011.
The building that was being constructed caved in on the workers, killing some, while others suffered multiple injuries.
He faced four counts of manslaughter and three counts of negligence, while the owner had been charged with making false architectural plans and constructing an illegal structure.
Mr Kathenge had said he was only an enforcement officer at County Hall, which was mandated to prohibit and control development on the city’s land.
“The petitioner’s chief complaint was that prosecution against him for the offences was malicious, discriminatory and in bad faith,” said Justice Isaac Lenaola at the High Court.
Mr Kathenge, in his affidavit, said the disaster struck before the developer sought permission to start construction.
He also said the building had been declared hazardous to potential occupants and construction workers.
He claimed he had issued notices to the developer, who then went to the High Court and obtained orders of injunction, the judge said.
“The orders issued on April 8, 2009 were later the subject of contempt proceedings against the then City Council clerk, but the High Court later stayed the orders,” the judge said.
He said the petitioner was thus being prosecuted unjustifiably.
“The collapse of the building must be solely blamed on the developers who flouted the Building Code and later sought protection from the courts, thus tying the council’s hands in demolishing the illegal development,” he said.
Justice Lenaola added that he would not hesitate to grant Mr Kathenge’s prayers against his prosecution.
“It is hereby declared null and void the decision by the DPP to present to court and charge the petitioner, the judge said.
He added that the decision to prosecute Mr Kathenge was also selective and could have been informed by ulterior motives.
However, Justice Lenaola declined to grant him costs, saying Mr Kathenge had “regained his freedom and that is sufficient recompense for his troubles.”