How traffic police officers bungle road accident cases

A traffic police officer inspects a matatu that was involved in an accident on the Eldoret-Kapsabet road this year. [File, Standard]

A woman missed out on Sh5.3 million in compensation because the court could not determine who was responsible for an accident that killed her husband.

In a case filed by Caren Auma against Clifford Otieno Ahonya (driver) and Emergency Relief Supplies Ltd, Justice L. Njuguna admitted that it could not be determined who was to blame for the accident between the driver and the deceased, who was knocked down while trying to cross the road.

Jonathan Okwiri was reported to have been knocked down on Mbagathi-Lang’ata road when the driver negligently drove a vehicle, which he lost control of and hit him.

Special damages

The widow said that at the time of his death, Okwiri was a mechanic in Nairobi earning Sh1,500 a day and went ahead to make a special damages claim of Sh134,800.

According to the driver, he was driving in the inner lane when Okwiri suddenly emerged. The vehicle ahead swerved and he ended up hitting him.

However, the case fell apart after the policeman who visited the accident scene turned out not to be the investigating officer. Also vital details of the accident were not recorded in the Occurrence Book, as required.

Corporal Joshua Nzioka said he was stepping in for his colleague (the investigating officer), who had been transferred. He failed to tell the court the exact place the accident happened.

“It was his evidence that the Occurrence Book (OB) did not indicate the point at which the accident occurred. He stated that as one approaches the roundabout, he or she should slow down and that at the speed of 50kph, a driver should be able to avoid an accident,” read the judgement by Justice L. Njuguna delivered on April 20.

The judge added that evidence by the plaintiff’s witnesses put the court in an awkward situation with regard to the issue of liability.

“None of the witnesses has shed light on how the accident occurred as there was no eyewitness. Their evidence has done nothing much to assist the court in arriving at a decision on who was to blame for the accident,” the judgement read.

The incompetence of the police in presenting solid cases for prosecution was also evident in a case filed by Ankush Manajoh Shah against the Republic.

In the court’s ruling, Justice G.W Ngenye–Macharia set aside an earlier order by a trial magistrate that allowed the case over speeding to proceed to plea and substituted it with a ruling that the charge sheet was defective.

It was argued by the applicant’s lawyer, Allen Gichuhi, that the charge sheet by the police was ‘fatally defective’ for reasons that an offence on speeding is only applicable when the person violates the speed limit by more than 20 kilometres per hour.

According to court documents, the applicant was driving along the Southern Bypass at Kikuyu in Kiambu County at a speed of 120kph instead of the prescribed 100.

“Thus, since the applicant had not exceeded the 20kph speed allowance, no offence had been committed and the charge was, therefore, fatally defective as the applicant had been charged for a non-existent offence,” the lawyer argued.

Prescribed punishments

He added: “Further, the applicant was entitled to the benefit of the less severe of the prescribed punishments of Sh300 for exceeding the prescribed speed limit provided under the Traffic (Minor Offences) Rules 1975, which were made pursuant to Section 117 and were still in force.”

Justice Macharia said the particulars of the charge did not disclose an offence and, secondly, that the applicant was charged under no known law.

He went ahead to dismiss the charge sheet as defective and left the prosecution with the option of charging the applicant afresh if it wished.