Musau & 2 others v Republic (Criminal Appeal E011 of 2022)  KEHC 15748 (KLR) (22 November 2022) (Judgment)
Neutral citation:  KEHC 15748 (KLR)
Republic of Kenya
Criminal Appeal E011 of 2022
MW Muigai, J
November 22, 2022
Stephen Kaloki Musau
Sammy Ndonga Mutua
Peter Kyania Musembi
(Being An Appeal From The Conviction And Sentence Of The Senior Principal Magistrate Court In Kangundo Hon. M. Opanga (srm) Delivered On 19.10.2021 In Spmcc Criminal Case No. 2161 Of 2021)
Trial Court Record
1.The Appellants were jointly charged with being in possession of ammunition without firearm certificate contrary to Section 4(2) as read with section 4(3) (b) of the Firearms Act Cap 114 Laws of Kenya.
2.The particulars of the offence are that on October 11, 2021 at Mukuyuni Shopping Centre, in Kangundo sub-county within Machakos County, jointly were found with two live ammunition of 38 special and one spent cartridge of the same caliber without firearm certificate.
3.In count II, Stephen Kaloki Musau was charged with stealing contrary to section 268 as read with section 275 of the Penal Code.
4.The particulars of the offence are that on the October 10, 2021,at Mukuyuni Shopping Centre in Kangundo Sub County within Machakos County stole one mobile phone make X-TIGI S23 valued at Kshs 1400/- . The property of Patrick Mutinda Nzimbi.
5.In Count III, Stephen Kaloki Musau was charged with stealing contrary to section 268 as read with section 275 of the Penal Code
6.The particulars of the offence are that on the October 10, 2021,at Mukuyuni Shopping Centre in Kangundo Sub County within Machakos County stole one mobile phone make Neon Ray valued at Kshs 4,000/- .The property of Anthony Kyalo Somba
7.The matter came up in court on October 19, 2021, the Accused persons indicated that the language they understood was Kiswahili and they chose to represent themselves when informed of the right to legal representation and the right to seek legal aid.
8.The substance of the charges were stated by the Trial Court and the Accused persons pleaded as follows;COUNT 1:Accused 1 ; trueAccused 2 ; trueAccused 3 ; trueCOUNT 2Accused 1; trueCOUNT 3Accused 1; true
9.The Trial Court entered a plea of guilty for each accused on the respective charges.
10.The prosecutor stated that the facts were as follows;
11.The response on record was as follows;ACCUSED 1 : Facts are correctACCUSED 2 : Facts are correct in respect of count 1ACCUSED 3 : Facts are correct in respect of count 1
12.The Trial Court convicted each accused on their own plea of guilty.
13.the prosecutor informed the Trial Court that they were first offenders and in mitigation, accused 1 said he was remorseful, that it was not his wish and it was due to drunkenness.
14.Accused 2 stated that he was remorseful. He did not know if the ammunition was used or not, that it was children who were playing with the same at a plot he resides in. He contended that he took the ammunition from them and gave to accused 1 who is his friend. He indicated he was drunk then.
15.Accused 3 was remorseful for what happened.
16.The Trial Court noted the mitigation and found that Accused 2 is much older than accused 1 and he is the one said to have given the ammunition to accused 1 and 3. That accused 1 was also found in possession of mobile phones that were stolen giving the impression that the three were engaged in a crime syndicate or racket of some sort. The Trial Court indicated that the mitigation offered did not persuade exercise of its discretion to interfere with the penalty provided under law.
17.In Count 1, each Accused person was sentenced to serve seven (7) years imprisonment.
18.In count II and III, 1st Accused person was sentenced to serve 1 year imprisonment on each count.
19.Dissatisfied by the conviction and sentence, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Appellants each filed a supplementary Memorandum of Appeal all filed on September 12, 2022 asking the Court to allow the Appeal, quash the conviction and set aside the sentence.
20.The grounds of the Appeal for the 1st Appellant are that;i.The Trial Magistrate erred both point of law and fact by failing to warn him of the consequences of pleading guilty.ii.The Trial Magistrate erred both point of law and fact by failing to note that the words ‘true’ were not adequate to constitute to a guilty plea.iii.The Trial Magistrate erred in law by failing to concede that he plead guilty to the charge due to the unfamiliarity with the court procedures.iv.The Trial Magistrate failed to put in a clear way whether the 1st Appellant was addressed individually concerning the language he understood. Record not recorded nearly as possible in his own words.
21.The Appeal was disposed of by way of written submissions.
1st, 2nd & 3rd Appellant Submissions
22.The submissions were filed on September 12, 2022 in which the 1st Appellant submitted that the trial court did not warn him that the outcome of pleading positive, he would be sentenced to 7 years. The 1st Appellant therefore contended that the plea was unequivocal and failure to warn him of the serious imprisonment deprived him a fair trial. Further, that his contention of the influence of alcohol was a negotiation of the plea of guilty.
23.It was submitted that the word ‘true’ was not adequate to constitute a plea of guilty and that the record does not show that the Appellant understood the facts and knew what he was pleading to. He contended that the words ‘true’ and ‘facts are correct’ without more words do not convince the court that the Appellant pleaded guilty to every element of it. Reliance was placed on the case of Bolt vs Republic (2002) 1 KLR 814 and Njuki vs Republic (1990) KLR334.
24.On the issue of the language that the 1st Appellant understood, it was submitted that it is not clear whether the accused told the court which language they understood and the court ought to have recorded his answer nearly as possible in his own words. It was submitted that the elements of the offence were not complete if the sentence wasn’t brought to his attention. The 1st Appellant relied on the case of Adan vs Republic (2973EA 445 and Njihia Wakianda vs Republic Criminal Appeal No 437 of 2020.
25.The Respondent filed submissions on June 29, 2022 in which counsel submitted that the facts were read to the Appellants at plea stage in accordance with Section 207 of the Criminal Procedure Code and they accepted facts as correct.
26.It was also submitted that the trial court cautioned the Appellant on the consequences of pleading guilty of the offence, especially count 1. Reliance was placed on the case of Abdalla Mohammed vs Republic  eKLR.
27.It was submitted while relying on the case of John Muendo M vs Republic  eKLR that the Trial Court followed the procedure of plea taking as required by law and the only issue was that the trial court failed to caution the Appellants before conviction and sentence. The court was invited to vacate the conviction and sentence and issue an order for retrial.
28.This Court considered the Trial Court record, the Appeal and the submission of the parties on record.
29.This being a first Appellate court, the duty is to evaluate afresh the evidence adduced before the trial court in order to arrive at an independent conclusion bearing in mind that it neither saw nor heard the witnesses testify. This was stated in the case of Okeno vs Republic (1972) EA 32
30.From the record the Court note that the Appellants were convicted on their own plea of guilty. Section 348 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides that;
31.In this case the Appeal can only be on the sentence. However, the Court of Appeal in Alexander Lukoye Malika vs Republic  eKLR held that: -
32.The procedure for recording a plea of guilty is provided under Section 207 of the Criminal Procedure Code as follows: -(1)The substance of the charge shall be stated to the accused person by the court, and he shall be asked whether he pleads not guilty, guilty or guilty subject to plea agreement;(2)If the accused person admits the truth of the charge otherwise than by plea agreement his admission shall be recorded as nearly as possible in the words used by him, and the court shall convict him and pass sentence upon or make an order against him, unless there appears to it sufficient cause to the contrary;
33.According to the Trial Court record, the above legal provision was fully complied with. This procedure was expounded in the case of Adan vs Republic  EA 445 where the court outlined the following procedure for plea taking:-a.The charge and all its ingredients must be explained to the accused in vernacular or some other language that he understands.b.The accused’s own words in reply should be correctly translated into English and carefully recorded.c.If the accused admits the charge, then the facts pertaining to the charge shall be read out to the accused, still in vernacular or in some other language that he understands.d.The accused shall then be asked to confirm to the court whether or not he admits the facts as given and in this regard, his full answer shall be recorded by the court.e.Where the facts as given are admitted, the court shall proceed to confirm the plea of guilty and to convict the accused.f.Where the accused’s response to the facts suggests a change of plea, the same shall be recorded and a plea of not guilty entered.
34.In this case, the charge and all its ingredients were explained to the accused persons in Kiswahili, the language they told the court they understood. The Appellants contend that the words ought to have been recorded nearly as possible in their own words. According to the Adan case supra, the accused’s own words in reply should be correctly translated into English and carefully recorded which was done by the Trial court. The next action is to read the facts which was done by the prosecutor, to which they admitted. The court then proceeded to convict them on a plea of guilty.
35.In John Muendo Musau –vs- Republic  eKLR, the Court of Appeal while reiterating the law on plea taking held that; -
36.In this instance, the 1st Appellant in mitigation says that it was not his wish to commit the offence it was because he was drunk while the 2nd Appellant contends that it was children who were playing with the same at a plot he resides in and he took the ammunition from them and gave accused one who is his friend. As far as proceedings were at this stage, the plea should have been changed to a plea of not guilty.
37.As regards the 3rd Appellant, there is no evidence that he said anything that could change the plea. The only issue would be whether he understood the consequences of pleading guilty.
38.The Respondent has conceded to the allegation by the Appellants that the Trial Court did not caution them before conviction and sentence. This would indeed be important as an accused person will fully understand what they are pleading to. The issue of unfamiliarity with court procedures is plausible, although the Appellants were given a chance to get legal representation they could not afford/access legal representation. Therefore, they chose to represent themselves. Courts have always held that extra caution is required with undefended/unrepresented accused persons and the duty of the Trial Court is to ensure that the plea of guilty is unequivocal and caution is heightened in serious cases and unrepresented Accused persons; as was stated in the case of James Khisa v Republic  eKLR).
39.The Respondent conceded the appeal and requested that the court should order for retrial. This issue was espoused by the Court of Appeal in the case of Fatehali Manji Vs Republic  EA 343 , where the court gave the following guidelines:-
40.Also, in the case of Muiruri Vs R  KLR 552, the Court held that: -
41.This Court finds that the plea was not equivocal and therefore the conviction and sentence are set aside and the matter is taken for retrial. This Court notes since the Appellants have already stayed in prison from October 19, 2021, should they be found guilty after trial, this period should taken into consideration in sentencing to avoid occasioning the Appellants any injustice.
42.As regards count 2 and 3, it is not clear from the Trial Court record whether the 1st Appellant was/is to serve the term consecutively or concurrently.
Disposition1.The conviction and sentence are set aside.2.This Court directs that the Appellants be arraigned before another competent Court in Kangundo within 30 days from today.3.In the meantime, the accused persons should be released and held at the nearest police station awaiting arraignment to Court.It is so ordered.
DATED, DELIVERED & SIGNED AT MACHAKOS THIS 22ND DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2022 (VIRTUAL/PHYSICAL CONFERENCE).M. W. MUIGAIJUDGE IN THE PRESENCE OF:STEPHEN K. MUSAUSammy N. Mutua AppellantsPETER K. MUSEMBIMWONGERA - FOR THE RESPONDENTGEOFFREY/PATRICK COURT ASSISTANT(S)