Case Digest Sex Offences

Case Digest: Man imprisoned for rape set free in appeal case

Justice T.W. Cherere of the Kisumu High Court

The criminal appeal No. 100 of 2018 between republic versus Charles Otieno Awinda appeared before High Court Judge Justice T.W. Cherere.

The appeal had been lodged at the appellate court by the convict Charles Otieno Awinda challenging his conviction and sentence. The appellant had been convicted on April 6, 2017 (in Criminal case S.O 10 of 2016) at a Chief Magistrate’s court by Senior Resident Magistrate Hon W. K. Onkunya.

The appellant had been sentenced on a defilement charge contrary to section 8 (1) as read with Section 8(3) of the Sexual Offences Act. Section 8(1) defines defilement as an act whereby a person causes penetration with a child whereas Section 8 (3) states that defilement with a child between 12 to 15 years is an offence that attracts a jail term of not less than 20 years.

Facts of the Case

According to the complainant, she recalled that on May 5, 2016 at about 9.00 pm, as she was going to sleep at her grandmothers house, a person she knew as Tabu masquerading as a police officer grabbed her jacket and arrested her for the offence of loitering. He then took her to a flower bed that was dark where he then defiled her.

In her deposition, the complainant,pw1, stated that there was an electric lighting at the particular crime scene where she had the appellant purported to arrest her. She also stated that the appellant was a familiar figure who lived approximately 1km from the complainant’s home. The complainant also mentioned that she reported the matter to her father who then took her to the hospital for examination.

According to pw2 testimony, the complainant was her 16 year old daughter and he was the one who escorted her to the hospital after she had recalled to her about the ordeal.

Dr. Barbara Otieno, Pw3, said that she had filled the complainants P3 form on May 9, 2016 where she relied on the records which she obtained from the Post Rape Care Form that had been prepared by Richard Adede, Pw4, a clinical officer. According to Pw4, he was the maker of the Post Rape Care Form which showed evidence of penetration in that the complainant had a bruised labia majora and minora; a torn hymen and mild vaginal bleeding.

Pw5, Richard Kimutai, a government analyst stated that from the complainant he had received evidence in form of a pink dotted blood stained pant and a blood stained skirt whereas from the appellant he had received a buccal swab. Upon examination of the DNA Samples, he found that the DNA profiles generated from the pant and skirt matched with the DNA profile of the appellant.

The Invesitgating officer, Amina Mohamed, in the case was the final prosecution witness. She confirmed that she received the complainant’s report on May 6, 2016 where she referred her to a hospital. She asserted that she was also involved in collecting the pant, skirt and buccal swabs as evidence to be relied on. She also aided in arrest of the appellant.

The appellant in a sworn defense contested the offence stating that his alibi: that he was at home with his family on the material night that the supposed rape happened. Further, he stated that he was framed for the offence by the complainants family due to an ongoing land feud between the two families. 

Analysis and determination

In determining the appeal, Justice Thripsisa Cherere stated that the appeal was lodged based on the fact that the appellant feels that the case was not proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt.

The appeal had been lodged on November 6, 2018 and the submissions filled on October 3, 2019. 

In determining the case, the honourable judge noted that from the report presented to the court by the government analyst, indeed their was penetration of the complainant as defined by Section 2 of the Sexual Offences Act.

However, albeit the judge acknowledged that the learned trial magistrate had held that the appellant was known to the complainant, there exists a significant difference between recognition and identification.

The judge opined that identification at night relies on the nature of the light, the strength of the light, its size and its position relative to the suspects as was held by the court of appeal in John Muriithi Nyaga v Republic [2014] eKLR.  

Consequently, the learned judge differed with the trial court stating that the identification relied on by the magistrate did not satisfy the test of identification at night. She stated that the trial court failed to evaluate the nature of the light, the strength of the light, the size of the light and its position as relative to the appellant. She relied on the absence of any inquiries by the prosecution as to the light condition at the scene of crime.

Furthermore, it was within the judge Cherere’s view that from the testimony given by the complainant’s father, it was questionable that the she informed her father of the ordeal but failed to mention the appellant as the offender whereas her memory was still fresh. Henceforth, the judge relied on this fact to conclude that the circumstances at the crime scene were not favorable for positive identification or recognition of the appellant as such non-disclosure ought to have sowed a seed of doubt in the mind of the Senior Resident Magistrate Onkunya concerning the identification of the appellant.

On a procedural and technicality point of view, the judge also relied on Section 122A of the Penal Code. This Section prescribes that only a police officer above the rank of an inspector may order in writing that a suspect of a serious offence to undergo a DNA sampling procedure, more so the order has to be if reasonable grounds exist to believe that the procedure might produce evidence which will confirm or disprove the suspect as having committed the alleged offence. Therefore, according to the judge the DNA evidence in form of buccal swab’ produced in the court had not been obtained by an order in writing by a police officer of or above the rank of inspector as the Investigating officer was a corporal in rank.

Finally, the judge relied on Section 122C of the Penal Code that states the procedure in Section 122A should be obtained by written consent and accordingly there was no evidence that the appellant gave written consent to undergo the DNA sampling procedure. Consequently, the DNA samples were unlawfully obtained from the Appellant and ought to have been rejected by the trial court pursuant to Section 122D of the Penal Code that states results on samples obtained from the DNA sampling procedure are inadmissible in any proceedings against the suspect unless they are conducted within the confine of Section 122A and Section 122C.

For the aforementioned reasons, Hon Justice T.W. Cherere of the Kisumu High Court on November 21, 2019 quashed the appellants conviction and set the sentence aside.

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