Victims’ families angered by four-year sentence for driver who killed Gladwell Otieno’s son
A businessman convicted for killing three people in a road accident on James Gichuru Road in Nairobi 11 years ago, will serve a four-year jail term if he fails to pay a fine of Sh630,000.
David Gichuki was sentenced by Senior Principal Magistrate Derrick Kutto of Kibera Law Courts on Friday.
The convict was on April 20, 2023 found guilty of three counts of causing death by dangerous driving and will pay a fine of Sh200,000 for each or alternatively serve a three years in jail.
He will also pay Sh30,000 for the offence of careless driving where he was convicted for driving without due care for other motorists or serve a one year in jail. Mr Kutto also cancelled Mr Gichuki’s driving licence for a period of two years.
But the families of the deceased persons and the only survivor of the accident have expressed dissatisfaction with the sentence which they said is lenient and did not measure up to their expectations owing to the fact that three people lost lives.
Gichuki caused the death of activist Gladwell Otieno’s son, Silvano Mandla Otieno and his friends Brian Waweru and Nsanya Otis Kapya.
Their friend Tijan Kisilu, who was seriously injured, told the court in his victim impact statement that he wanted Gichuki to be jailed for 12 years.
Mr Otieno’s mother Ms Gladwell said she feels that justice has not been served because of the “lenient” penalties slapped on the convict.
“We have been told to forgive, we have been lectured by the defence which did all in the court to delay the proceeding so that the witnesses will scatter and memories get lost. But no one has ever asked for forgiveness,” she said in an interview after the sentence was read out.
“Nobody ever came to us to say sorry. The family of the offender has never said sorry. The probation officer’s report is very clear that the offender has no consciousness of culpability or remorse, in fact he feels that he is the victim, his life has been turned upside down by this case.”
She went on: “We therefore feel that this sentence is a slap on the wrist and does not send the correct signal to Kenyans about the value of human life and about the importance of consciousness on the roads, so we feel we have not received justice”.
Waweru’s father Samuel Mwaura said they never anticipated that the fine would be Sh600,000. He said 11 years is a long period and that the journey has been painful.
“We are not experts and we have very little experience in issues to do with criminal cases, including traffic cases. Therefore, we did not know how to prepare ourselves. We are just learning that drunk driving would have been one of the reasons for the custodial sentencing and yet the convict was acquitted of the charge,” Mr Mwaura said.
“The accident happened, the accused was arrested by the police. We do not know whether there is a requirement that the accused should be taken for assessment to determine whether he had an alcohol problem. We are also disappointed that a case that should have taken a year or two was allowed to drag on for 11 years. It is a major disappointment for the victims and their families.”
But Gichuki’s lawyer, Mr Danstan Omari, said the sentence meted on his client was harsh. He said the fines were punitive considering that his driving license was also suspended for two years.
He said they are going to appeal both the conviction and the sentence passed by the court.
Mr Omari said they disagreed with the conviction because the evidence available was that people who were to be blamed for the fatal accident were the deceased.
“I know it is very painful for the families for having lost three young people, but that does not mean that because somebody has died a wrong person be convicted,” Mr Omari said.
He added that the sentence meted on Gichuki was excessive, especially in the manner of cancelling the driving license for two years.
“This young man drives Uber, gets hired to drive matatus and do a few things. Now he can’t be in gainful employment for two years. We have full instructions to go to the High Court to challenge the conviction and the sentence especially the cancellation of the driving license,” Omari said.
“We are going to the high court armed with enough evidence that the conviction was irregular, illegal and that our client should be declared the innocent person who circumstances on the ground exonerate him from culpability for the deaths,” the lawyer said.
Senior probation officer Judith Epereje, who prepared the presentencing and victim impact assessment report tabled before Kutto, said Gichuki was not suitable for a non-custodial sentence.
Ms Epereje said, based on the nature of the offence and the offender’s attitude towards the offence, his lack of remorse, the gravity of physical, psychological, emotional and economical trauma and the victim’s views captured in the victim’s impact statement reports it is her recommendation that Gichuki be jailed.
“The offender has absolved himself from any responsibility in the matter herein. In as much as his family is routing for a non-custodial sentence for him, the offender did not express his willingness and commitment to be compliant to the provisions of either the probation community service order should he be given one,” Ms Eperenje said in her report.