Reprieve for prisoners as court nullifies statute - Beaking Kenya News

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Thursday, 29 August 2019

Reprieve for prisoners as court nullifies statute

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Robbery with violence convicts have a reason to smile after the High Court quashed a section of the law that denied them remission.

Justice George Odunga, sitting in Machakos, also said prisoners with definite sentences and those jailed at the pleasure of the President are also entitled to remission.

Remission is the reduction of the term of a prison sentence, usually due to good behaviour, exceptional merit, permanent ill-health or other special grounds.

In the decision, Justice Odunga said to maintain that those convicted of offences under section 296(2) of the Penal Code are not entitled to remission presupposes that such offenders are incapable of reform.

The judge said the dignity of the person is ignored if he is denied remission that is available to others serving similar sentences, simply on the irrational presumption that he is incapable of reforming.

“Failing to consider the diverse character of the convicts, and the circumstances of the crime, but instead subjecting them to the same (mandatory) sentence thereby treating them as an undifferentiated mass, violates their right to dignity,” the judge said. In the case, five robbery with violence convicts — Sammy Musembi Mbugua, Nicholas Mukila Ndetei, Sammy Kitonga Mukusya, John Muoki Mbatha and Paul Mumo Muia — serving sentences ranging from 15 to 40 years, challenged a section of the Prisons Act arguing that it contravenes Article 27 of the Constitution.

They argued that they have a right to equality before the law   and the government should not discriminate against them.

According to the convicts, remission makes a prisoner to desire for self-improvement and essentially places their fate into their own hands. They said such system allows prisoners to take charge of their lives and develop a sense of responsibility, as well as providing an incentive to serve one’s time productively, with a mind-set of moving forward.

Since no remission is to be granted to a prisoner sentenced to imprisonment for life or for an offence under section 296(2) of the Penal Code, offenders are treated unequally.

They told the court that the Attorney General had not issued any information regarding the basis for denying them the right to remission.


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