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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Criminal justice system set to change after Uhuru’s new COVID-19 containment measures

By The Frontier Post Reporter

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President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced a raft of measures that are aimed at ‘limiting human interaction’ in order to combat the invisible enemy-COVID-19 pandemic.

And now the criminal justice system are expected to change their modus operandi.

Besides that alternatives to pre-trial detention and imprisonment is expected to be devised to decongest detention facilities as well as enhancing avenues for diversion of matters through alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and alternative justice system (AJS).

“The Judiciary, Law Enforcement, Remand and Correctional Facilities, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and other players and stakeholders in the criminal justice and civil justice systems are to take immediate action to eliminate non-essential physical contact or situations within their areas of mandate that may lead to crowding or propagation of the Disease,” said the president.

The COVID-19 taskforce working with the National Police Service (NPS) will now be forced to go back to the drawing board and properly devise rules of how to handle Kenyans violating COVID-19 guidelines.

Those arrested may be fined instead of being detained at remand facilities or police cells in order to avoid a social distancing nightmare in the facilities designed to hold a limited number of people.

Police will equally be required to enforce the law and avoid engaging in ’excesses’ as has been previously witnessed where several officers have been accused and even captured on camera meting violence on innocent Kenyans including children, some of whom lost their lives.

Traffic police will in the coming hours set up roadblocks and barricades across designated points in the five ’infected counties’ to prevent movement of people until the directives are revised by the President.

County Emergency Response Committees are also expected to work closely with law enforcement in implementing the infection prevention control measures.

Acting Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu who was also vaccinated on Friday alongside President Kenyatta has been grappling with the increasing cases of COVID-19 infections in the corridors of justice, with several law courts including; the Mavoko Law Courts, Thika Environment and Land Court, the Family Division of the High Court at Mililani Law Court, the Bungoma Law court among many other forced to be closed indefinitely.

At least three judicial staff members have lost their lives as a result of the virus with several others being put in mandatory quarantine.

As a precaution, the National Council on the Administration of Justice may be forced to re-introduce several changes to prevent the spread of the virus such as requiring new arrests and remandees’ cases be heard in police stations except for serious cases.

Courts may also be closed indefinitely with all cases expected again to be heard virtually.

The spread of the corona virus in prisons was also a point of concern with authorities devising several measures to combat its spread.

On advisory of the National Council on Administration of Justice (NCAJ) petty offenders across the country may also be released.

This is expected to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in prisons.

Thousands of inmates in that category have since last year been released with the prison population reducing significantly from 48,000 to 42,000 inmates.

“Part of what of what we do is adhere to strict COVID guidelines such as limit visits to prisons and if inmates have court cases conduct virtual trials, ” said Kenya Prisons Service Commissioner General Wycliffe Ogallo.

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