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Kenyans want sex pests punished more severely than terrorists

By Kamau Muthoni and Graham Kajilwa | March 12th 2018
Kenyans would like to see those involved in sexual assault and who engage in treasonable acts punished severely. [Photo: Courtesy]

The majority of Kenyans want sex pests tried for capital offence and punished more severely than even terrorists and the corrupt.

According to the report of a task force that looked into criminal law, 54 per cent of those interviewed want rape to be categorised as a capital offence and those convicted of the crime jailed without the possibility of parole.

Forty-one per cent of citizens and 58 per cent of public officials said those convicted for defilement should be jailed for life.

The respondents proposed life imprisonment for such offenders because they are opposed to the death sentence.

Further, 31 per cent of public officials interviewed said rapists should be imprisoned for life. 

On the flip side, only nine per cent of members of the public and 12 per cent of public servants want terrorists hanged or jailed for life.

Even fewer public officials (8.1 per cent) and citizens (8.6 per cent) support the hanging of corrupt people.

The research was done by a joint team comprising the Power of Mercy Advisory Committee (Pomac) in conjunction with Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and National Crime Research Centre (NCRC). A total of 4,703 people were interviewed.

The report indicates that in all 47 counties, 57 per cent of members of the public do not want the death sentence while 43 per cent support it.

Out of 256 public officials working in the criminal justice system, 54 per cent supported retention of the death sentence while 46 per cent were against it.

Those in support of the death sentence want defilement, rape of the elderly, economic crimes, drug trafficking, brewing of illicit liquor, terrorism and incitement to violence categorised as capital offences and punishable by death.

It also emerged that most Kenyans feel the high cost of living, drug abuse and unemployment are the major drivers of capital offences.

It was reported by 38 per cent of members of the public and 42 per cent of public officials that poverty and the high cost of living contributed to capital offences. Some 27 per cent of members of the public and 28 per cent of public officials said drug abuse or alcoholism were to blame for capital offences, while unemployment came in third, with 23 per cent of members of the public and 15 per cent of public officials saying it fuelled crime.

The team also indicated that most public officials, at 75 per cent, want victims of crime compensated.

It also emerged that one in every four people in prison today is serving a life sentence. As of January 30 this year, 6,917 people in prison were serving life sentences.

This translates to more than 28 per cent of the 24,594 convicted offenders as at that date.

According to the report, the numbers have risen disproportionately mainly due to the many convictions under the Sexual Offences Act, with a prescriptive life sentence for certain degrees of the offence and commuting of death sentences to life sentences.

At least 51 per cent of respondents in the general public category were in favour of life imprisonment without limit while 48 per cent recommended alternative durations.

At the same time, 43 respondents among the public officials supported life sentence without limit, while 56 per cent recommended a determinate life sentence.

Of those who recommended a life sentence with a limit, the majority (58 per cent) of members of the public recommended 30 years as the maximum length; 33 per cent cent suggested a length of between 21 and 30 years while 24 per cent suggested a duration of less than 21 years.

Members of the public and officials in favour of the death sentence were further probed on where they preferred it to apply in each of the six capital offences.

From the lot, 80 per cent of members of the public supported imposing the death penalty on those charged with treason. On the other hand, 70 per cent of public officials agreed that those found guilty of treason should be hanged. Another 30 per cent did not support it.

Asked whether the death penalty should also apply for oath to commit a capital offence, the majority of the general public, 87 per cent, agreed while 13 per cent were opposed to it. Eighty per cent of public officials were in agreement.

The research also indicates that both members of the public and public officials - 96 per cent and 93 per cent respectively - wanted murderers to suffer death.

Also, 91 per cent and 86 per cent of members of the public and public officials respectively want those convicted of robbery with violence hanged.

However, the number of those in support of the death sentence for those convicted for attempted robbery with violence decreased to 76 per cent of the general public and 68 per cent of civil servants.

Those in favour of the death penalty for military offences that do not result in death stood at 90 per cent and 96 per cent respectively.

It also indicates that Kenyans want those handed the life sentence freed at a certain point.

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