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Daily Nation, Nairobi, 28 April 2000
Bill to outlaw corporal punishment
By Catherine Gicheru
Caning of prisoners is an archaic, inhuman and degrading punishment that will soon be done away with once the proposed Criminal Amendment Bill is enacted.
According to the current statutes, corporal punishment is one of the many punishments a court can order. Other punishments include death, imprisonment, detention, fine, payment of compensation and being bound to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
Corporal punishment is applicable in cases where a person is convicted of sexual crimes, offences connected with murder and suicide, those endangering life and health, assault leading to actual bodily harm, theft and robbery, burglary or break-ins, and conspiracy to commit crime.
The number of strokes is usually specified and the convict informed about it. Women prisoners and those on death row are exempted.
The punishment cannot be exchanged for a fine but can be substituted for a prison term imposed on any male under 18 years of age. The punishment is carried out only after the expiry of the period set for appeal against the sentence or until after the appeal is concluded.
A medical officer must examine the prisoner and certify that he is physically fit to undergo the punishment. A medical officer must be present when caning is carried out and can postpone or intervene if he believes the prisoner will suffer grave or permanent injury if the punishment is carried out.
A person sentenced to corporal punishment without the option of a jail term can be detained in prison until the punishment is carried out or commuted. However, no person under the age of 18 can be detained in prison for this purpose.
Caning is carried out with a cane, rod or other instrument of a type approved for the purpose by the minister in charge, who has the right to choose different types of instruments for different ages. The number of strokes is limited to a maximum of 10 for those under the age of 16 and 18 strokes for those older.
Most countries in the West have expunged corporal punishment from their statutes. Those that retain the punishment are mainly countries which observe Islamic or Sharia law.
One of the most celebrated cases where the use of corporal punishment was questioned was the Koigi Wamwere case in 1995 when the politician, his younger brother Kuria and a former Kenya Army captain, G.G. Ngengi, were sentenced to four years imprisonment and six strokes of the cane each for attempted robbery. They won their appeal against the sentence.
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