He pleaded guilty but was let free over prosecution errors

The whole courtroom suddenly went silent as Lodwar Senior Resident Magistrate Thomas Nzioki entered and called the court to order.

It was on June 7, 2010, a day when Edward Lodira, who sat quietly at the dock, would be sentenced after being found guilty of defiling a 14-year-old girl.

As the magistrate read through the judgment, Lodira listened passively, his mind probably recollecting what had transpired between him and the minor a few weeks earlier.

He had previously pleaded guilty to charges of defilement and committing an indecent act with a child on the night of May 30 and 31 in Turkana West District.

“The court finds you guilty and sentences you to 30 years in prison,” stated the magistrate, jostling Lodira into reality. Shortly thereafter, Lodira challenged the verdict at the High Court in Kitale seeking quashing of the sentence and a retrial.

In one of his grounds of appeal, Lodira said he pleaded guilty out of confusion and that he did not know the consequences of what he was doing.

He further alleged to have been misled by police officers who reportedly advised him to accept the charges and seek for forgiveness since he was a first time offender.

The appeal was, however, dismissed on December 20, 2011 prompting him to seek redress at the Court of Appeal in Eldoret.

In his submissions, Lodira faulted the High Court for failing to appreciate that he was a minor and that the trial court never accorded him another chance to take the plea afresh after the prosecutor requested and was granted an adjournment to obtain the P3 Form. “After I took plea, the prosecutor proceeded to read the facts but stopped half way to request for an adjournment. However when the court resumed later, I did not take the plea afresh as required by law,” Lodira told appellate judges David Maraga, Daniel Musinga, and Agnes Murgor.

He also pointed out that the charge was defective as the quoted section of the Sexual Offences Act related to victims who are 11 years and below and yet the complainant was 14 years old.

The appellate bench duly noted the discrepancy and said failure to give Lodira an opportunity to retake the plea was irregular.

The judges also observed that although the charge sheet indicated Lodira was 18, no birth certificate or age assessment report was produced to prove that.

“For these reasons, we find doubts in the prosecution case, the benefit of which should have been given to the appellant. Consequently, we allow this appeal and set him free forthwith unless otherwise lawfully held,” they ruled on December 10.