There was an attempt to rearrest the parents of five children who were locked up for 18 hours in police cells at Naromoru Police Station, Nyeri County, shortly after they were released on Monday night.
This comes as lobby groups condemned the action by the officers to detain the children for allegedly stealing scrap metal, and demanded their prosecution. The children are aged between four and 10 years.
According to Mr Robert Kariuki, who was detained alongside his son, police officers went to their home at around 8pm seeking to arrest the children’s parents.
This was despite the fact that police said they had dropped all charges against the children and their parents.
Police had said they would charge the parents with negligence and Mr Kariuki would face an additional charge of causing disturbance at the police station. He had begged officers to release his son and detain him instead.
“After we were released, the police told us they were sorry and we should sort out issues with the complainant [who accused the children of theft]. We were shocked to see them again at night telling us to go back to the police station to record statements,” Mr Kariuki said.
Ms Jaqueline Wairimu, however, refused to accompany the officers back to the station until they explained why they were re-arresting her.
Ms Wairimu spent Sunday night in police custody together with the five children. After about half an hour of arguing, the officers, who were in a police Land Cruiser, received a phone call and left her house.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the call came from a senior officer who instructed the officers to stand down due to the pressure and publicity the incident had caused.
When quizzed over the decision to detain the parents again, Kieni East OCPD Michael Mbaluku said he was not aware of it.
“I am not aware of any re-arrest. Unless the officers want to question them over the circumstances under which the children were left unattended. But no arrest has been made,” the police boss told the Nation on the phone.
Meanwhile, the parents are seeking legal redress over the illegal detention of the children and have reported the matter to the County Children’s Services in Nyeri Town.
Children’s rights lobby group Uhuru Community Development Project (UCDP) want the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute the officers who handled the children.
“It is shocking that the law enforcement in this case are the worst perpetrators of children rights violations. The police have deprived the children of their rights by holding them criminally responsible contrary to Section 14(i) of the Penal Code. The children have been traumatised by spending the night hungry in an adult cell, and [being] denied access to their parents,” UCDP director Davies Okombo said in a statement.
He also urged the Independent Policing Oversight Authority to open investigations into the detention of the children and the officers on duty at the time.
Central Region police boss Gideon Amala, however, still defended his juniors saying that the matter was blown out of proportion and that they were only providing shelter and care. This was despite the fact that he admitted that it is illegal to detain a child below 10 years of age.
“It is wrong to detain a minor below eight years. Those children were kept at the station for care and shelter,” the police boss said.
Nevertheless, the regional police boss has instructed the Nyeri county police commander and county Directorate of Criminal Investigations to probe the matter.
“The county commander and DCIO have already commenced investigations into how the matter was handled and appropriate action will be taken,” Mr Amala said.
The Central regional police coordinator also noted that all charges against the children and their parents were dropped and that they would pursue an out-of-court resolution.
“Since the complainant [who accused the children of the alleged theft] is also a resident of the area, we have opted to go for a harmonious way to resolve the matter,” he said.