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ON SUICIDE ATTEMPTS

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Suicide is on the rise in Africa[i]. The major cause in the increase of suicide and suicidal attempt is depression. Most people suffer depression in silence; especially in Africa where the healthcare system does not give adequate room for the care of persons with depression and suicidal tendencies, the outcome of depression can be self harm and when at its peak, death by suicide. Sometimes the victims stop short of doing the act which will suffice in law as an attempt to commit suicide.

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Recently, there was a story online that a guy jumped from a bridge into the lagoon in Nigeria and committed suicide[ii]. I heard the particular bridge has become attractive to suicide people to take the plunge. Now, if the guy had been rescued after the jump, it would have been a solid attempt at committing suicide.

It is an offence under section 226 of the Kenyan Penal Code for a person to attempt to kill himself. An attempt to commit suicide is treated in law as a minor offence in Kenya, and therefore defined as a misdemeanor. Section 36 of the penal code prescribes penalty for misdemeanors; where no punishment is provided for any misdemeanor, the penalty should be imprisonment for a maximum of two years or a fine or both.

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In reality, those who are not successful in committing the offence of suicide are rarely punished. This perhaps, is because most of those who sought to kill themselves suffer from psychological problems of some sort and therefore require sympathy and treatment rather than punishment. This was addressed in the case of Kabeni v Republic [1970] EA 503. The trial court convicted the appellant for attempted suicide, and sentenced him to six months imprisonment. On appeal, the sentence was reduced so that he was released from custody forthwith. The opinion of the appellate court was that the appellant required sympathy rather than punishment. In such cases, the trial court should call for a probation report as a matter of course before imposing sentence[iii].

However, the court is not always lenient in all cases as there are instances where offenders were punished for attempted suicide in Kenya. For instance, in the case of Beatrice Ngwfasi Kyusya v Republic[iv] the accused was convicted and sentenced to serve two years imprisonment for attempting to kill herself. She appealed but the appeal was dismissed.

This crime has many critics especially from the health sector. The argument is that this section of law should either be  repealed or changed to allow the police to help families take relatives who attempt suicide to hospital without fear of arrest, so that they can facilitate rather than hinder access to treatment[v].

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[i] https://www.businessdailyafrica.com/datahub/Kenya-suicide-rate-hits-ten-year-high/3815418-4628496-7bgj9pz/index.html, http://ghanatrade.com.gh/Latest-News/ghana-records-1500-suicide-cases-annually.html, https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/dossier.php?ID=608 – Dossier: suicide stories

[ii] https://www.pulse.ng/news/local/journalist-commits-suicide-on-lagos-third-mainland-bridge-id9061686.html

[iii] William Musyoka, Criminal law, LawAfrica, 339

[iv] www.Kenyalaw.org<accessed 4th November 2018>

 

[v]  https://globalpressjournal.com<accessed 4th November 2018>

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Oludare
Lawyer, Bibliophile, Polyglot, Traveller
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