I will always remember my first prosecution after qualifying
as an Inspector of Weights and Measures.
After successfully take the Spring 1955 Board of Trade
exam and anxious to go to East
Africa, I had been interviewed
by a board of officials in the
Colonial Office and was accepted
for appointment to HM Overseas
Civil Service, subsequently
posted as the Inspector of
Weights and Measures i/c Rift
Valley Province in Kenya.
Trading Standards officers
comprised one of the smallest
professional groups in HMOCS, with only 19 qualified officers in East Africa. In other colonies in West and Central Africa
TSOs were appointed on contract terms and so were not members of HMOCS.
Arriving in Nakuru, the Rift Valley Provincial HQ, I was within five days quickly
inducted by Bill Rigby into the mysteries and art of being a Provincial Inspector. Dealing
with governmental financial procedures and conducting a circuit of stamping courts
seemed to be of greatest importance. After Bill had left Nakuru to return to his post at
Mombasa and I was left to get on with it, I decided that I should make my first tour of
In the Nakuru office my assistant was Frederick Onyango and the office boy was
Okaro. I couldn't ask for a better assistant than Frederick who had been one of the very
first African police officers to be promoted to the rank of Inspector in the Kenya Police
but had later transferred to the newly formed Weights and Measures Service within the
Ministry of Commerce and Industry. His knowledge of the Kenya Penal Code and the
Criminal Procedure Code was excellent and I learnt much from Frederick during the 18
months that we served together. Both Frederick and Okaro were from the Luo tribe,
completely untainted by Mau Mau terrorism, so I could rely on their unswerving loyalty
in any difficult situation.
Where should I carry out my first inspection? Frederick suggested that we might begin
at Njoro township, some 15 miles from Nakuru, a trading centre with two dozen Indian
dukas or shops. So Frederick and I jumped into the cab of the Morris LC3 truck with
Okaro in the back of the vehicle and we set off on the dusty track to Njoro. Arriving there
I found the township to consist of a long line of corrugated buildings each with the trading
store in the front and family accommodation at the rear.
I asked Frederick where we should start and he indicated a store midway along the
line. We parked just short of the duka, left Okaro to guard the truck and then entered
the shop. Going from the bright equatorial sunlight into the darkness of the windowless
shop I was temporarily blinded but announced our presence by a loud 'Mkaguzi wa Mawe
na Mizani' ('Inspector of Weights and Measures'). In the gloom I became aware of a
shape rushing away from the counter clutching a rattling scale under his arm. Frederick
shouted 'After him, Bwana' and I immediately gave chase through a door into the back
room. In the middle of the room was a large iron double bedstead, with the Indian trader
rapidly crawling under it. I followed, grabbing one foot, with the other foot he kicked out,
knocking over a smelly enamel chamber pot. Fortunately the pot was empty.
In the meanwhile Frederick had gone round the bed and grabbed hold of the trader's
shoulders. I let Frederick pull him out from under the bed whilst I retrieved the scale. It
was a 28lb counter machine, bearing a large rejection star and grossly insensitive.
Opening my notebook, I proceeded to take down the trader's details, helped in my
spelling of his name by the trader's licence which was framed behind the counter.
Frederick told me that there was a police post about 14 mile down the road where I
could charge the trader and fix bail. So we bundled the penitent trader into the back of the
truck where 6ft 4in tall Okaro made sure he wouldn't escape.
At the police post I was greeted by the local Police Inspector who said I was in luck.
Outside under a tree in the police yard was a Special Magistrate (a local farmer with
judicial experience) trying a batch of tax defaulters and he would be delighted to hear a
real criminal case. I quickly wrote out the charge sheet alleging the possession for trade
of an unstamped and unjust weighing instrument and presented it and the accused to the
magistrate. The Indian trader pleaded guilty at once, was told by the magistrate that he
was a rogue and a cheat who swindled all his customers and had now been caught out by
Bwana Inspector. His attempted escape proved his guilty mind and he would be fined
200/-. I then pointed out to the magistrate that the court had power to order the scale's
forfeiture - this was granted.
Taking the shopkeeper back to his shop, he complained that he was now without a scale
and would lose business. So being soft-hearted, I agreed to give him a lift back to Nakuru
to the local Avery's agent where he bought a new machine for 280/-.
The period from entry into the shop to sentence was a total of 90 minutes. True and