By Kevin Anyonge
The annual judicial service month on children was held this year at the Makadara law courts with the theme speeding up the wheels of justice. Established by the Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga in his capacity as Chairperson of the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ), the Taskforce on Children Matters was gazzetted on 29th January, 2016. The Taskforce’s mandate was to inter alia look into the gaps that impede efficient delivery of justice to children who are either in conflict with the law or in contact with the law as victims.
In attendance was Lady Justice Martha Koome of the court of appeal who said children are spending much time in jail remands and prisons a matter that was discussed the previous year. She further urged the society to work together with authorities in maintaining discipline in children thus reducing the number of children in prisons.
The years the children spend in remands should have an alternative as the children should be in school rather than remand.
Stakeholders and various speakers urged the need of working together right from the area chief, parents, police and judges to ensure children cases are completed and also children are directed in the right way to avoid criminal acts.
Stacy de la Torre of Department of Justice posted to the US embassy in Nairobi said “We seek a juvenile justice system that is rational, fair. Effective. A system holds young offenders accountable for their actions, provides for their rehabilitation ,protects them from harm, increases their life chances and manages the risks they pose to themselves and to public safety’’
The practice of juvenile justice is being transformed broadly by applying novel concepts such as plea bargaining and legal aid to assist in moving cases more expeditiously through the system. If the concept is adopted it can create a fair and effective juvenile justice system that enhances public safety, gives a good return on public investments and reflects our society’s deep belief in redemptive possibilities for people who have made mistakes.
Today, in many parts of the world, legislators, officials and practitioners are beginning to move away from harsh and punitive sanctions towards a more balanced approach that protects public safety and holds young people accountable for their actions in ways that do not compromise their future life chances.
The principle being that when we do the right thing for an individual in trouble or need we are helping the larger society as well-in this case leading to less crime, less money spent on prison, more productive lives contributing to the greater good, not draining it.
Service Week for Children Cases
During the First National Service Week in 2016, it was estimated that about there were over 2000 cases of children which were pending hearing. Since then, over 1400 cases have been dealt with (though we are yet to know the exact numbers).
As a result of the national service week, the taskforce with great support from the US Embassy- (The Department of Justice) has been able to conduct mini service weeks in courts which were regarded as hot spots: Narok Law Court.Lodwar Law Court, Shanzu Law Court, Bungoma Law Court, and Kitale Law Courts.
The objectives of the service weeks are grounded on the Constitution, the principles of UNCRC, in particular the best interest of the child, and the Children Act, they included:
- To ensure that ALL cases of children pending for more than 6 months are concluded.
- To ensure that ALL child victims have testified.
- To collect data and statistics of child offenders and victims
The service week is well guided by a protocol on the service week which was developed and adopted by the taskforce on Children matters. Some of the guidelines included:
- All courts shall be required to conduct an audit of pending cases as per the case information form enclosed.
- The Court Users Committee (CUCs) in court stations shall form a special Children Committee tasked with collecting data on children’s cases (using the data collection tool)
- Each court is expected to collect data on the progress of the Service Week i.e. data on the number of cases pending as well as the number of cases concluded during the service week using the two data collection forms enclosed. The Individual Case Data Intake form shall be fully completed for every case listed in the cause list. The data of each case shall also be fully completed in the National Service Week Data Sheet.
Kevin Anyonge is a Producer and Writer at Mtoto News
Mtoto News is an online platform of news, information and resources that aims at making significant change in the lives of children by making them visible. Read mtotonews.com or follow us on twitter and Facebook @mtotonews