Maize thief released over a defective charge sheet

Unshelled maize at a farm in Wei Wei irrigation scheme, Sigor, West Pokot. [Christopher Kipsang, Standard]

A High Court in Eldoret has set free a man accused of stealing unshelled maize from a farm in Eldoret.

Judge Reuben Nyakundi, in a judgment delivered last week, said the section under which Henry Edwar was charged does not exist in law.

Justice Nyakundi noted that the evidence at the trial, with regards to the charge, was that the man had stolen unshelled maize.

The same, he said, does not accord with the charge as it refers to an offence that does not exist in law. The judge pointed out that the accused person was charged with an offence on livestock instead of farm produce.

"There is no provision for the offence of stealing from a farm under section 278 of the Penal Code, and therefore the appellant pleaded guilty to an offence not known in law.

"The plea cannot be considered unequivocal in the premises and thus cannot be sustained," ruled the judge.

The judge said the offence of stealing farm produce is provided for under Section 8(1) of the Stock Produce Theft Act, Cap 355, and not the Penal Code.

"The appellant was charged with stealing farm produce and not stealing stock. The provision clearly states that the offence is stealing stock, and the description of what amounts to the same does not cover the items that the appellant stole, being unshelled maize," read a judgment by Justice Nyakundi.

Edwar had been sentenced to a three-year jail term by a magistrate's court in Eldoret after he pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing.

Particulars of the offence were that on January 15, 2022 at Makongi farm in Segero location, Soy sub-county, Edwar stole farm produce (unshelled maize) valued at Sh1,000 and the property of Thomas Kiplagat.

Edwar was convicted of his own guilty plea and on considering his mitigation, the trial court sentenced him to three years' imprisonment.

Aggrieved by the court's decision, he lodged an appeal on January 24 last year, saying the sentence imposed on him was unjust.

"I therefore find justification in exercising this court's powers of review under section 362 of the Criminal Procedure Code (cap 75) and quash the conviction and set aside the sentence imposed on him," said the judge in his ruling.

"The appellant be set at liberty forthwith unless otherwise lawfully held. It is so ordered," he concluded.