June 16, 2024

Mackenzie gets 12 Months for Possession and Distribution of Unclassified Films

Controversial cleric Paul Mackenzie when he appeared in a Malindi court Friday.(Photo By George Maina)

By George Maina

Email, thecoastnewspaper@gmail.com

A Malindi court on December 1, 2023 sentenced controversial preacher Paul Nthenge Mackenzie to 12 months imprisonment for being in possession of unclassified films and distributing them that were not examined or classified by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB).         

Malindi senior resident Magistrate Olga Juma Onalo also sentenced the accused of now closed down Good News International Church to six months imprisonment for operating a studio and producing films without a valid licence from KFCB. Both sentences run concurrently.

Giving out her sentence, Onalo said she had considered the fact that the convict was 50 years old, remorseful, and had learnt his lesson, thus closing down his church and relocating after selling off his TV station.

“I also consider the length of time taken for this case to be concluded, the resources used and the fact that he is a family man who is depended upon for the family’s source of livelihood,” she said.

The magistrate, however, said Mackenzie was a repeat offender since he had earlier been charged with the offence of possessing and exhibiting unclassified films although that may not have been intentional, the accused should have refrained from repeating the offence.

In addition, the magistrate said it was true that the long-haul effects on the viewers of the unauthorized content were grave and had tumultuous effect in the long run, thus handed him a jail term of 12 months.

For count three, the accused person’s explanation of not knowing the need for a licence from KFCB having obtained a broadcasting one was reasonable, but not entirely acceptable as ignorance of the law was no defence resulting into conviction of six months imprisonment.

Mackenzie, who has been in custody since March, 2023, for allegedly orchestrating the deaths of more than 400 followers because of fasting to die teachings, was brought to court under tight security.

Last month, Onalo found Mackenzie guilty of the two charges, but acquitted him on the first count, in which the preacher had been accused of incitement to disobedience of the law, saying the prosecution had not proved the charge beyond any reasonable doubt.

The magistrate, then sought a pre-sentencing report, which was submitted in court on Friday, December 1, 2023.

The report, signed by assistant director Nick M. Makuu, recommended that Mackenzie be given a custodial sentence despite noting that he had committed the offence in ignorance and was remorseful.

Submitting the report, prosecutor Joseph Mwangi said it would be practically impossible to carry out a non-custodial supervision and rehabilitation of the offender since he was already in custody with no bond terms.

“Your honour, given the above findings and the current circumstances of the offender where he is in custody with no bond terms and no clear line of sight toward the likelihood of him being bonded. A non-custodial supervision and rehabilitation option is practically not possible,” he read the report.

According to the report, the accused thought the acquisition of a broadcasting licence from the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA), which his church used to carry out broadcasting activities, was enough, and that he was not aware of the existence of the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB).

The defence lawyer James Mouko mounted a spirited fight to convince the court to give his client the least severe punishment, basing his argument on Article 50 of 2010 Constitution on the rights of an accused person.

He asked the magistrate to use her discretion and not to rely on the recommendations of the probation officer; a position opposed vehemently by the prosecutor.

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