14 May 2009

A Light Sentence for Manslaughter

Thomas Cholmondeley given 'light' sentence for poacher's killing

A Kenyan judge has sentenced the aristocrat Thomas Cholmondeley to a 'light' eight months in prison for killing a black poacher.

London Telegraph

By Mike Pflanz in Nairobi
Last Updated: 11:29AM BST 14 May 2009

Thomas Cholmondeley has been sentenced to a 'light' eight months in prison for killing a black poacher Photo: AFP

The Eton-educated white Kenyan aristocrat had faced a life sentence for manslaughter in the May 2006 shooting after his conviction last week, but Mr Justice Muga Apondi instead opted for what he called "a light sentence".

"He had no malice aforethought in killing the accused, he bore him no grudge and the shooting was not pre-mediated," Mr Justice Apondi told a packed Nairobi High Court.

"I will enforce a light sentence to give the accused person some time to reflect upon his life. The upshot of this is I hereby sentence him to eight months in prison."

Cholmondeley, 40, showed no emotion as the judge made his ruling. His family and friends smiled with relief but made no comment as they left the courtroom.

Keriako Tobiko, the director of public prosecutions, said after the hearing that he would appeal against the sentence.

"We have no complaint with the verdict, but as regards sentencing, with great respect to the judge, we regard it as too lenient in the circumstances," he said.

"It is not commensurate with the seriousness of the offence, for which the maximum sentence is life. Let us not forget that a life has been lost here."

The judge said that he would make no decision on whether Cholmondeley would pay compensation to the widow of the dead man, Robert Njoya.

"That is a matter for a civil court," he said.

Cholmondeley found Mr Njoya poaching impala on Soysambu, the family's 48,000-acre ancestral ranch close to Naivasha, 55 miles north of Nairobi, late on May 10, 2006.

He fired his Winchester rifle, he said, at Mr Njoya's dogs, but a bullet hit the 37-year-old father of four young sons. He died soon after.

Mr Justice Apondi told the court that he had taken into account the fact that Cholmondeley immediately called the police, gave Mr Njoya first aid and arranged for him to be taken to the nearest hospital.

Cholmondeley is now likely to be home before Christmas, legal sources said, under a Kenyan system where two-thirds of a sentence are usually served.

A group of Masai tribespeople in bright coloured robes began shouting in protest and waving placards reading "The Butcher of Naivasha" in the courtroom after the sentencing.

Cholmondeley had earlier been arrested for shooting an undercover Masai game warden, also on Soysambu, in May 2005. That case was dropped for lack of evidence.

A spokesman for the group, Martin Ole Kamwaro, said: "It is clear that the life of a Masai is worth less than the life of other Kenyans."

Mr Njoya was a Kikuyu, Kenya's largest tribe.

There are fears amog the white community that there may be protests close to Soysambu. In the past they have threatened to invade the ranch if they felt justice was not served on Cholmondeley.