CASE TO PROCEED

Four lose bid to halt Solai Dam trial

Justices William Ouko, Wanjiru Karanja and Martha Koome dismissed their application saying it failed to meet the threshold set in law

In Summary
  • It is the court's view that if the criminal trial is stayed the right of the other accused persons to a speedy trial would be compromised
  • “Orders of stay of proceedings if granted will scuttle any attempts to finalise the negotiations that were on going prior to the impugned Ruling,” the court ruled.
Children flee to safety after the Solai Dam collapsed on May 10, 2018. /REUTERS
SCARED BUT LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Children flee to safety after the Solai Dam collapsed on May 10, 2018. /REUTERS

Four suspects in the Solai Dam tragedy case have lost a bid to halt their trial at the magistrate’s court after the Court of Appeal dismissed their application.

Perry Mansukh Kansagar, Vinoj Jaya Kumar, Luka Kipyegon, Johnson Kamau Njuguna sought a stay of orders issued by a Nakuru High Court directing for a fresh trial to commence.

Last year, Justice Richard Mwongo had ruled in favour of the DPP who had appealed the decision by chief magistrate Kennedy Bidali who acquitted them after the prosecution failed to start the trial on several occasions.

The four who are among nine charged with manslaughter then moved to the Court of Appeal to seek a stay of the criminal case pending the determination of their appeal.

However, Justices William Ouko, Wanjiru Karanja and Martha Koome dismissed their application for stay, ruling that it failed to meet the threshold set in law.

The court noted that there are six other persons charged alongside the four before court who had not appealed.

It is the court's view that if the criminal trial is stayed, the right of the other accused persons to a speedy trial would be compromised.

On the flip side, the court said even if it were to halt the case only for the four before court and their case fails, it would mean recalling all the witnesses who had already testified.

“That would be untidy and also be an uneconomical use of valuable judicial time and other resources. We are also persuaded that the matter is in the realm of public interest and the stay orders sought are not merited,” the court ruled.

The court further ruled that having considered the circumstances of the case, the applicants would not suffer any loss if the stay are not granted at this stage.

“We say so because if the appeal is allowed, the hearing before the trial court will just be stopped and the acquittal of the applicants restored,” they ruled.

The judges further noted that from the court records, there has been attempted plea bargaining so stopping the trial will jeopardise the process.

“Orders of stay of proceedings if granted will scuttle any attempts to finalise the negotiations that were ongoing prior to the impugned ruling,” the court ruled.

But, the court also ruled that even though it has declined to stay the criminal case, they have an arguable case that raises serious questions to be determined by court.

Magistrate Bidali had acquitted all the nine accused in the case after the defence applied for a dismissal arguing that the prosecution had lost interest in the matter.

Bidali went ahead to acquit all the nine accused because the prosecution had not tendered any evidence in court

He acquitted the accused and closed the case which led the prosecution to appeal the ruling at the High Court.

Justice Mwongo set aside the ruling by Bidali and directed the case to proceed afresh before another magistrate.

-Edited by Sarah Kanyara