Mercy in court: Mombasa magistrate fundraises for couple charged with flour theft

A police officer hands over contributions to Saumu Ali, who was charged with stealing wheat flour worth Sh1,980. She was charged alongside her husband Evans Odhiambo.

Photo credit: Brian Ocharo I Nation Media Group

The high cost of living is slowly pushing Kenyans to unorthodox means to make ends meet, including stealing flour to avoid sleeping hungry. A couple in Mombasa is one of the hard-pressed Kenyans who decided to steal a bale of flour to prevent their children from starving. But they were caught, arrested and taken to court to face the law.

Saumu Ali and her husband Evans Odhiambo were charged with stealing. The charge sheet reads that on April 13, in the Shimanzi area of Mvita sub-county, they stole one bale of wheat flour valued at Sh1,980, the property of Grain Industries Ltd. The couple pleaded guilty to the charge but said they had run out of options and that it was the only sensible thing to do that day to avoid sleeping on empty stomachs.

“I was doing my menial job when my husband called me to help him carry the load. We did this for the sake of our children," a teary Ms Ali told Mombasa Senior Resident Magistrate Vincent Adet.

She said she had confessed to the arresting officer and explained her situation but the law enforcer insisted on taking her to court.

"We took the flour from a vehicle that was parked near the road. My husband had asked me to help him carry the load," she told the court.

But instead of applying the law and punishing the couple, Mr Adet chose to help them.

"On humanitarian grounds, especially for the woman, I have considered the circumstances of the offense and I sympathise with her situation. With three kids under her care, and no source of income, I am of the view that let us buy her a bale of wheat flour and some meat for today," he said.

And with this, the magistrate quickly turned the court session into an impromptu funds drive by being the first donor, giving the couple Sh1,000.

He then asked the people present in court to contribute whatever they had to help the couple buy meat and flour.

At the end of the fundraiser, the magistrate told the woman that her "sins had been forgiven" and set the couple free, but he advised them not to repeat the same mistake.

The magistrate explained that his decision was informed by a probation report that indicated that the couple had no source of income and depended on menial jobs to survive.

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