Reduce Arrest Of Petty Offenders, Matiang'i Tells Police

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Police should pay attention to the new prosecution guidelines developed by the DPP  to avoid frivolous arrests and reduce the high number of petty offenders in remand, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i has said.

Matiang’i decried the “overwhelming number of petty offenders in remand and jail who are expensive to keep.” The CS spoke on Tuesday during the launch of the guidelines at Prosecution Training Institute in Loresho, Nairobi.

He said prisons and remand centres were crowded by petty offenders whose cases can easily and expeditiously be handled through alternative means if the new guidelines are observed.

“The number of petty offenders in our prisons can be reduced if these guidelines are implemented. It is expensive to sustain them [the petty offenders],” he said.

For example, he said, a traffic offender held in custody awaiting their cases eventually pays fines like Sh600 but keeping them in remand costs in excess of Sh30,000.

“I call on the police to study the decision to charge guidelines [to help manage] the overwhelming number of petty offenders that should not be in remand and prison,” he said.

Matiang’i lauded the guidelines, saying that if followed, frivolous arrests and detention will be done away with as only cases that are in the interest of justice and whose evidence is reasonable will be pursued.

The guidelines require that a prosecutor assesses the quality of the evidence amassed by the investigators and subjects it to a two-step test before mounting prosecution in the courts of law.

The prosecutor’s assessment, the guideline says, must not be influenced by personal biases, ethnic inclination, desire for conviction and politics among other factors.

Public interest, reasonable prospect of securing a conviction and the likelihood that the accused committed the alleged offence should be the guiding standards for the prosecutor’s decision to press charges in the court.

The CS's argument is that with the new guidelines embraced by the police, it will reduce congestion in the remands and prisons as well as ease the case backlogs in the courts.

Chief Justice David Maraga, who was the chief guest during the launch, encouraged DPP Noordin Haji to increase uptake of new technology in case processing as well as sustaining the reform initiatives.

Maraga recounted how his efforts to reform the Judiciary and install change have met spirited opposition, giving the example of officers frustrating the digital revenue collection initiatives as a means of perpetuating corruption in the Judiciary.

“Criminals do not like efficiency,” he said, warning Haji to prepare for fierce opposition in implementing the reforms and digitising operations.

Maraga, however, asserted that any reform efforts must preserve the independence and interdependence of constitutional bodies and that prosecution of all cases must observe the rule of law, fairness and be apolitical.

“These guidelines will bring to an end arbitrary prosecution and abuse of court process,” he said, adding that “the prosecution must not be selective, imperious and capricious.”

International Justice Mission country director Benson Shamalla said the decision to charge should be painstaking, professional, fair and guided by the law.

He gave an example of two security guards - Collins Ouma and John Atelu - who were arrested and charged with robbery with violence in 2015, offences they did not commit and were held for two years as their bail amount was hefty.

Little did they know that as they were languishing in remand, the real suspects were arrested by police and charged already, he said.

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