Ndiku Mutua & Ors v Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Ndiku Mutua & Ors v Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

Late 2013, Queen’s Bench Division

For the claimants Ndiku Mutua & Ors:

Leigh Day & Co partners Martyn Day and Dan Leader instructed Matrix Chambers’ Richard Hermer QC and Doughty Street Chambers’ Phillippa Kaufmann QC to lead One Crown Office Row’s Henry Witcomb, Maria Roche and Doughty Street’s Alex Gask

For the defendants the FCO:

One Crown Office Row’s Guy Mansfield QC leading Peter Skelton instructed by the Treasury Solicitor

For the intervener Redress:

One Crown Office Row’s Lizanne Gumbel QC

Gumbel_Elizabeth
Elizabeth-Anne Gumbel

This case has already had a few outings in the High Court, most recently last October. Then the Government sought to have the claims dismissed on the grounds that the claimants were out of time.

The claims were brought by four Kenyans for serious personal injuries and torture suffered while being held in detention in Kenya in the 1950s.

The latest challenge to the suit came a little more than a year after the court dismissed the FCO defence that actions could only be brought against the perpetrators of the alleged assaults or their employers at the time. As The Lawyer went to press the CoA gave the FCO permission to appeal the limitation issue.

This headline-making case has already put the methods of colonial Britain under the spotlight.

Attempts to cover up the so-called ‘Hola Camp massacre’ were revealed by The Times last November. It reported that colonial officials knew of the crimes but had conspired to keep them out of the public eye.

Hola was a detention camp for the most radical Mau Mau rebels, described as the “inner core of the hardcore, hostile to and contemptuous of authority”. On March 3, 1959, a group of inmates refused to dig a ditch and were savagely beaten by African prison guards under the command of British officers. Eleven died and more than 40 were seriously injured.

Now the Mau Mau Kenyans want compensation from the British government which, it says, should be vicariously liable. Leigh Day & Co has instructed Matrix Chambers’ Richard Hermer QC and Doughty Street Chambers’ Phillippa Kaufmann QC to lead the fight.

This is a dispute of considerable historical and legal interest, relating to the liability of the British Government for people employed by colonial governments. If successful it could pave the way for similar claims from Kenya and other countries by those claiming to have suffered in the last days of the British Empire.