What does this mean for Kenya children in need of legal aid?
By Constance Ndeleko
According to recent publications from the justice system delivering general information to the public in regards to the court fees and assessment now Kenyan citizens can heave a sigh of relief pertaining children court cases.
From the 1st of September 2021, a publication was released stating that no fee are to be held in matters filed in children’s court.
The information was captured in the: The Court Fees Assessment Schedule which provides fees applicable to the lodging and filing of the respective documents in proceedings before the specified courts and tribunals in Kenya.
The Court Fees Assessment Schedule provides a description of the relevant court documents and corresponding fees as prescribed by the following courts and tribunals, for public information and case management purposes.
The Kenyan Justice System is committed to delivering justice fairly, impartially and expeditiously by promoting equal access to justice as well as advancing local jurisprudence by upholding the rule of law in line with the constitution.
‘Justice for children’ refers to all situations where children are involved in either criminal or civil justice systems. This includes administrative and informal justice mechanisms. Child-friendly justice describes justice systems that are designed or adapted to be sensitive to issues faced by children when they come in contact with law and courts for any reason.
In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
In the recent years, the Africa has been striving towards accessing a child friendly justice system____, “child‐friendly legal aid”- the right of a child under the age of 18 to receive competent, timely, and developmentally appropriate legal assistance in connection with a civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding in which the child’s rights or interests are at stake.
With regard to implementation of the standards within the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and other relevant instruments, the Committee (ACERWC) notes that there is an evidence of increasing implementation by Member States, for instance through the establishment of child-friendly structures such as courts and dedicated law enforcement units. However, in a majority of countries these trends are only at an early stage, and in some cases the practices lack comprehensive legislative backing.
States also follow different approaches in relation to child justice. Some States have legislation that provides mechanisms for dealing with children in conflict with the law- from arrest to consideration of diversion, the trial system, and disposition of the cases. Other States have vested the ‘juvenile’ systems with both civil and criminal jurisdiction, while others have different regimes to deal with the various kinds of cases involving children. This shows the inconsistent legal approaches in dealing with children in domestic child justice systems.
A child friendly justice system requires that special consideration is accorded to vulnerable children who come into contact with the law. As children in conflict with the law, they should first be treated as victims.
With the no fee application in children’s court pertaining their cases, it means that children will move at a faster speed since they cannot exceed 6 months before hearing. This move will help accelerate child justice in their best interest to attain an Africa Fit for Children through child friendly justice systems across the region.