By JOSEPH MURAYA, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 12- The government has formed a taskforce to oversee the implementation of rules to enforce instant fines for traffic offences following a court order that gave approval.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi says the multi-agency taskforce chaired by Transport Principal Secretary Esther Koimett has been given 30 days before the regulations can be implemented.
This will be a reprieve to many traffic offenders who will not have to spend hours in court or prison cells and may cut down cases of bribery and extortion.
“Nearly 8,000 people we have in remand are there because of traffic offences. Some of them the fine is Sh600 but while there, they are consuming Sh3,000 per week. Does that make economic sense?” Matiangi asked.
Addressing senior police officers during the Inspector General’s conference on Wednesday, CS Matiangi revealed that he will be sending amendments to Parliament to decriminalize some traffic offences.
“We are starting a process of decriminalizing the traffic offences. Now that we have the issuance of driver’s licenses on a digital platform, we have a better way of dealing with these offenders,” he said.
“So that we reduce the 10,000 or so people we are holding on traffic offences such as speeding, parking on the yellow line and then we have these people spending Sh24,000 from the exchequer before they can pay a fine of Sh2,000.”
The stakeholders involved include the National Transport and Safety Authority, office of Solicitor General and of the Attorney General.
– Petition by right groups –
A recent article by Capital FM News revealed how it has become a booming business for authorities dealing with petty offenders.
With the rot spilling over to the courts.
Case studies used in the story revealed that most people found to be on the wrong, for petty offences opt to pay a bribe because of the bureaucratic way of the criminal justice system.
READ: The bribery economy; how petty offenders have been made cash cows
Others pay what they term as more ‘pocket-friendly police fine’, aware that though a petty offence, it attracts a punitive punishment.
Like in a case of boda-boda rider, who instead of going to court and be charged with say obstruction, whose fine can be as high as Sh40,000 gives a lesser amount to authorities.
According to a report by the International Commission of Jurists titled “Poverty is not a crime; Decriminalize petty offences attracting criminal sanctions”, criminalization and punishment of petty offences in the country, “has for over the years provided a basis for gross violation of human rights of the poor and vulnerable populations especially those in cities and major urban centres of Kenya.
Most affected according to the report and as established by Capital FM News are hawkers, public service vehicles touts and commercial sex workers.
“The enforcement of these offences subject ordinary civilians, many of whom are unaware of their rights, to unparalleled human rights abuses. These include arbitrary arrests, unfair bail terms, irregular fines, irregular sentencing practices; profiling and stigma,” reads the report.
Those unable to pay, are usually detained mostly on trumped-up charges such as idling, loitering, drunk and disorderly conduct among other petty offences.
“The result is exposure of otherwise innocent civilians to hardened criminals,” the reports point out.