NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 9 – The Judiciary has announced that it will deploy over 70 judges in 20 High Court stations countrywide from October 14 to address a backlog of appeal cases.
The programme dubbed “Judicial Service Week: Criminal Appeals”, targets to hear and determine about 1,500 criminal appeals and review the eligibility of 3,500 prisoners for Community Service Orders(CSO).
The exercise, to be undertaken by High Court, Industrial Court and Environment and Land Court judges is expected to substantially decongest prisons in the country.
In a statement to newsrooms, the Judiciary explained “reduction of sentences for 3,500 prisoners to CSOs would save the taxpayer over Sh223 million annually, as current estimates put the cost of feeding one prisoner daily at Sh175.”
“The Judicial Service Week is a multi-agency collaboration that will see players in the justice chain work together under the banner of the National Council on the Administration of Justice,” the statement read.
In addition to this, The Law Society of Kenya has offered its support to the criminal appeals service initiative and will extend pro-bono services to interested appellants who are unable to afford legal representation.
The Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko has undertaken to provide State counsel for the exercise.
Last year, the High Court cleared 3,944 appeals, leaving 10,289 others pending. This includes 3,325 appeals filed during the year. It is estimated that out of a total 33,194 convicted prisoners, 12,704 prisoners qualify for Community Service.
The statement added that, “the Judicial Service Week is part of the on-going judicial transformation efforts aimed at facilitating speedy access to justice.”
The service week marks the beginning of many other initiatives the Judiciary will undertake to enhance access to justice.
In July, judges opted to forgo their annual colloquium in a bid to reduce the backlog in criminal matters at the High Court and enhance access to criminal justice.
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga explained that devolution would help the judiciary realise its true and proper intent as a people driven mechanism in which it is publicly accountable.
He, however, added that rules of procedure have been revised and continue to be subjected to internal review to ease access to justice as well as ensure that justice is done without undue regard to technicalities – as commanded by the Constitution.
He said that they were decentralizing hitherto centralized administrative functions so that Nairobi becomes a fit-for-purpose advisory and coordination unit, “rather than the all-powerful controller of resources and purveyor of “official decisions” that has characterized our past.”