13 August 2014

Kenya: Judge Bans Cops From Towing Cars

A magistrate yesterday accused Traffic police of routinely corruptly obtaining money from Kenyans by towing their vehicles.

Acting Principal magistrate Benson Nzakyo immediately ordered the release of lawyer Robert Macharia's car detained at the Kilimani police station over Sh8,500 towing charges.

In a ruling delivered at the Milimani law courts, Nairobi, he said there is no law that permits police to order suspected traffic offenders to pay towing charges.

Before counsel moved to court, it is reported that, on July 30, at 9.30pm, he was arrested 500 metres from Kilimani police station and though he had a designated driver, the police opted to tow his vehicle to the station and ordered him to pay the money, which the magistrate said is "illegal and unreasonable".

Nzakyo said during proceedings police prosecutor C. P. Kyaa admitted that it has been police practice for years that, upon arresting suspects in respect to drunken driving, they do not allow them to drive their own cars.

"As has been confirmed by the learned police prosecutor, police have developed a practice to levy towing charges upon traffic offenders. This clearly shows that action by police is not backed by any written law," Nzakyo said.

Citing precedence, Nakyo invoked Justice Festus Anzangalala's ruling on a similar case, saying Kilifi Traffic police insisted on Ali Baraka paying towing charges before they could release a car, but the judge said there is no rule or law that provides for towing.

Anzangalala said in his judgement: "They were using their position as police officers for a collateral purpose to advance their private interest".

Yesterday, Nzakyo said he is bound by Judge Anzangalala's findings and that Kilimani police were not basing the towing of the vehicle on any traffic rule.

"Indeed, police in the instant case were not enforcing any traffic law in charging Sh8,500 as towing charges against the applicant, but were beneficially creating business opportunities for a private individual," the magistrate said.

In a survey done by the Star, the practice is reported to be rampant among Traffic officers countrywide.

The towing vehicles used by Traffic police, mostly Land Rover models retrofitted with towing equipment that are at least 40 years old, are owned by police officers who bought the vehicles after they were sold off by the Police Service as salvaged cars.

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