THE Court of Appeal has ordered the immediate release from prison of one suspected poacher, Petro Kilo Kinangai, who was sentenced to 20 year imprisonment for unlawful possession of two elephant tusks, which are government trophies, valued at 29.17m/-.
Justices Shaban Lila, Gerald Ndika and Jacobs Mwambegele ruled in favour of Kinangai, the appellant, after allowing an appeal he had lodged against findings of both trial District Court of Karatu and that of the High Court at the first appellate level.
They were joined hands with the appellant and the prosecution that the case against him was not proved to the required standard, that is, beyond reasonable doubt, as required in criminal cases.
“In consequence whereof, we allow the appeal and quash the conviction of the appellant and set aside the sentence meted out to him. We order his immediate release from prison custody unless held there for some other lawful cause," they declared.
When deliberating the appeal in question, the justices noted, among others, some defects on the trophy valuation report, a crucial exhibit in proving the economic case, which was filled by a person identified as Wildlife Manager.
"We have found nowhere in the Wildlife Act defining the designation Wildlife Manager. Neither have we found anywhere to peg an idea that the designation Wildlife Manager falls within the scope and purview of the Wildlife Officer," the justices said.
They, thus agree with the prosecution that the trophy valuation report was filled by an unauthorised person, the consequence of which is to lack probative value. In the premises, according to them, such exhibit was prone to and must be expunged from the records.
"The expungement of (this exhibit) has a significant repercussion on the prosecution case and the appeal at large. This would mean that the value of the trophy under discussion is not ascertained and thus there will be nowhere to peg the sentence against the culprit," the justices said.
There was also a complaint relating to the chain of custody of the seized elephant tusks and concluded that the chain of custody of such exhibit was not at all observed.
They expressed that it was doubtful if the elephant tusks found in possession of the appellant at the time of arrest were the very ones that were tendered in court.
It was averred in the particulars of the offence that on January 11, 2013 at Lake Manyara National Park area within the Karatu District of Arusha Region, the appellant was found in unlawful possession of two elephant tusks valued at 29,172,000/-, the property of the Government of Tanzania.
Facts show that on January 10, 2013, a police officer charged with the duty of anti-poaching, got wind that four persons had entered Lake Manyara National Park for poaching and were still there.
On January 11, 2013, together with a conservator working with Ngorongoro Crater Area Authority (NCAA) and another person went to the park in search for the suspects. At Arai River in the Park, they saw four persons at a distance of about one hundred metres.
The police officer ordered them to stop but they could not obey the order and, instead, took to their heels. He fired in the air to stop them to no avail; three of them managed to escape except for the appellant.
He was in possession of a polythene bag containing two elephant tusks, the subject of the charge that led to his arraignment.
The appellant was subsequently arrested and the charge the subject of the appeal was preferred against him.