British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by Clive Howard-Luck
My First Weights and Measures Prosecution
Clive Howard-Luck with Frederick and Okaro
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 inspection.

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 speedy justice.

Colonial Map
1955 Map of Nairobi Region
Colony Profile
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 101: April 2011


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