Kenyan judge explains why he freed convict accused of raping 17-year-old girl

Said Chitembe
Justice Said Chitembe. [Photo: Courtesy]

Justice Said Chitembwe who is gunning for Kenya’s Chief Justice post has explained why he released 19-year-old serial rapist years back.

On Monday when he appeared before the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) he said that he had a valid reason to release the 19-year-old suspect Martin Charo who had raped a 17-year-old girl.

He defended his ruling then saying that he made the decision based on its practicality more than the legal framework.

He said that from his point of view, the young girl willing had consensual sex with the accused, therefore, he found no reason to send him to jail.

“When I write my judgment, I am not considering what the judge of appeal will say. I am ready to be criticized. In the said case, the lady (child) said she went to the man’s house, had sex with him and went home, she was not defiled,” he defended himself.

“You convict a 20-year-old boy while the 17-year-old girl he impregnated is crying, “where is my husband?” Do you look at the law and jail the boy or do you look at the girl who will be ripe for marriage in a year and her child?” he posed.

This ruling was ranked among the worst against sexual violence against women earning a Golden Bludgeon in 2016.

Before the case was appealed, Charo had been convicted to 20 years in jail.

He cleared the air saying that though he freed the suspect based on the basis of consensual sex, he does not advocate for the age of consent to be reduced to 18 years.

“I am not advocating for the reduction of consent. As a judge, you have to analyse what transpired. Age of consent is not an issue. Martin Charo’s case is one where he was dating the girl and brothers knew where the sister was,” he stated.

Justice Chitembwa was the first to appear before JSC led by former Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Prof Olive Mugenda.

Others who have expressed interest in succeeding former Chief Justice David Kenani Maraga are senior counsel Fred Ngatia, Justice Nduma Nderi, Justice Marete Njagi, Prof Patricia Mbote, Justice Martha Koome, Alice Yano, Justice William Ouko, Dr Wekesa Moni.