By Victor Muyakane
Detention was the last thing on the mind of a middle aged woman from Murang’a who was in court for a somewhat commonplace land case.
But an 8 hour detention is exactly what she earned herself in the cells within Murang’a law courts as well as a Sh. 500 fine after her cell phone rang twice during court proceedings .
Ms Julia Wanja, who was a witness in a land case facing her brother, was unable to prevent her phone’s loud ringtone from disrupting court proceedings even after she was given a warning by Principal Magistrate Walter Onchuru when it rang for the first time.
At first, Wanja struggled to switch off her smartphone the first time it rang and unsuccessfully at that. Her inept efforts coupled with the loud ringtone incited the court to suppressed mirth, further disrupting an already distracted courtroom.
Ms. Wanja was then allowed by a slightly irritated judge to answer the call outside the courtroom.
Upon her return to the courtroom, no sooner had she settled at her seat than her phone rang again, louder than before if that was possible. At this point the court security officer promptly evicted her from her chair and more or less frogmarched her to the magistrate’s bench, with the entire court erupting into gales of laughter.
The Magistrate ordered her detention in the cells for eight hours and to ensure she pays a fine of Sh. 500.
A light moment ensued in the courtroom when the woman tried to avoid her detention by pleading for mercy by claiming that it was her first time to use a smartphone and she is illiterate.
“Your honor please forgive me, I got this phone as a gift from my relative and am not conversant with its operation,” pleaded Wanja.
The magistrate refused to cancel the detention and stated said that courtroom etiquette is very clear on the subject of cellphones and therefore every participant in the court process ought to adhere to this for the sake of avoiding disturbances such as that of Ms. Wanja.
She’s not the first to have been held in contempt of court, but hers indeed ranks among the most humourous reasons for it.