What you need to know:
- Mr Gichuki was on April 20 found guilty of three counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
- Following the ruling, the families of the deceased persons and the one survivor of the accident expressed their dissatisfaction.
A businessman convicted of killing three people in a road accident on James Gichuru Road in Nairobi 11 years ago will spend four years in jail if he fails to pay a fine of Sh630,000.
Mr David Gichuki was handed the punishment on Friday by Senior Principal Magistrate Derrick Kutto of the Kibera Law Courts in Nairobi.
Mr Gichuki was on April 20 found guilty of three counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
The fine is of Sh200,000 for each count plus Sh30,000 for the offence of careless driving following his conviction for driving without due care for other motorists. For the latter, the alternative was a year in jail.
Mr Kutto also canceled Mr Gichuki’s driving licence for two years.
Following the ruling, the families of the deceased persons and the one survivor of the accident expressed their dissatisfaction.
The punishment was too lenient for a case regarding three deaths, they said, adding it did not meet their expectations.
The three were Silvano Mandla Otieno, who was Ms Otieno’s son, and his friends Brian Waweru and Nsanya Otis Kapya. Their friend Tijan Kisilu, who was seriously injured in the accident, told the court in his victim impact statement that he wanted Mr Gichuki jailed for 12 years.
Ms Otieno said she felt justice had not been served because of the “lenient” penalties slapped on the convict.
“We have been told to forgive. We have been lectured by the defence which did all in court to delay the proceedings so that the witnesses would scatter and the memories would get lost, but no one ever asked for forgiveness,” she stated in an interview after the sentencing.
“Nobody ever came to us to say sorry. The family of the offender has never said sorry. The probation officer’s report is very clear - that the offender has no consciousness of culpability or remorse. In fact, he feels he is the victim and that his life has been turned upside down by this case.”
She went on, “We therefore feel that this sentence is a slap on the wrist and does not send the correct signal to Kenyans about the value of human life, and about the importance of consciousness on the roads. We feel we have not received justice”.
Brian’s father, Samuel Mwaura, said they never anticipated a fine of Sh630,000 after a painful 11 years since the accident.
“We are not experts and we have very little experience in issues to do with criminal cases, including traffic cases. Therefore, we did not know how to prepare ourselves. We are just learning that drink-driving would have been one of the reasons for the custodial sentencing yet the convict was acquitted of the charge,” Mr Mwaura said.
“The accident happened. The accused was arrested by the police. We do not know whether there is a requirement for the accused to be taken for assessment to determine whether he had an alcohol problem. We are also disappointed that a case that should have taken a year or two dragge on for 11 years. It is a major disappointment for the victims and their families.”
Mr Gichuki’s lawyer, Danstan Omari, said, however, that the sentence meted on his client was “draconian” and “excessive” and the fines punitive, adding his driving licence was suspended for two years.
Mr Omari said they were going to appeal both the conviction and the sentence.
He said they disagreed with the conviction because evidence shows, according to him, that the deceased were to blame for the accident.
“I know it is very painful for the families, having lost three young people, but that does not mean the wrong person should be convicted,” he said.
“This young man drives an Uber and gets hired to drive matatus and do a few things. He now can’t be in gainful employment for two years. We feel Sh630,000 is a lot of money for such a young man,” he said.
“Aggrieved with that, we have full instructions to go to the High Court to challenge the conviction and the sentence, especially the cancellation of the driving licence. We are going to the High Court armed with enough evidence that the conviction was irregular and illegal and that our client should be declared the innocent person whose circumstances on the ground exonerate him from culpability for the deaths.”
Senior probation officer Judith Epereje, who prepared the pre-sentencing and victim impact assessment report tabled before magistrate Kutto, said Mr Gichuki was unsuitable for a non-custodial sentence.
Ms Epereje said that based on the nature of the offence and the offender’s attitude towards it, his lack of remorse, the gravity of physical, psychological, emotional and economical trauma and the victim’s views as captured in the impact statement reports, it was her recommendation that Mr Gichuki be jailed.
“The offender has absolved himself from any responsibility in the matter herein. In as much as his family is rooting for a non-custodial sentence for him, the offender did not express his willingness and commitment to be compliant to the provisions of the probation community service order, should he be given one,” she said in her report.