CJ Maraga announces radical plan to expedite hearing of graft cases

February 1, 2019 3:44 pm
“There was a request whether or not these cases should not be given a timeline like six months. I’ve sat with those magistrates and we’ve assessed the kind of cases we have,” he said/CFM NEWS

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 1 – The Judiciary has announced the rollout of an ambitious case management scheme that will see corruption-related matters concluded within five months at most.

Responding to Capital FM News on new measures adopted during a meeting he held with the country’s top judges on Friday, Chief Justice David Maraga said most graft cases will be concluded within three to five months based on cooperation by prosecutors and other parties involved.

“There was a request whether or not these cases should not be given a timeline like six months. I’ve sat with those magistrates and we’ve assessed the kind of cases we have,” he said.

“Some (cases) with the cooperation of all the partners can be finished in three months, others can take four to five months but others with huge documents will take a little longer,” the CJ elaborated.

Among measures adopted during the meeting attended by among others Court of Appeal President Justice William Ouko and High Court Principal Judge Justice Lydia Achode is extended working hours for magistrates and judges in anti-corruption divisions.

Justice Ouko said CJ Maraga had already mandated judicial officers to expedite hearing of corruption cases by extending working hours whenever necessary.

“The Chief Justice has given written mandate to all the magistrates in the anti-corruption court to sit beyond normal court hours in order to fast-track the cases. All magistrates in anti-corruption court will undergo sensitization and training in Active Case Management techniques,” a communiqué read by the head of the Court of Appeal outlined.

According to Justice Ouko, a total of 91 corruption cases were determined between July 2017 and December 2018 resulting to 46 convictions.

He said there are 94 pending corruption cases at the moment.

“The Judiciary leaders recommended specific measures to concluding these pending cases in the most expeditious manner without compromising the rights of Accused Persons. Ten more magistrates have been added to the Anti-corruption Court with specific mandate to finish all the pending cases,” Justice Ouko said.

CJ Maraga is scheduled to chair a National Council for Administration of Justice (NCAJ) meeting next week when “justice sector players as a collective can address the issues hampering the prosecution of anti-corruption cases.”

Among issues itemized in the NCAJ agenda are delays in provision of witness statements by litigants, failure to avail witnesses when needed, and the failure to produce expert witnesses and reports.

Litigants in corruption cases including the public prosecutor have often been faulted for failing to supply statements leading to adjournments that have further slowed down the conclusion of graft cases.

In an apparent cessation of hostilities between the Judiciary and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Friday meeting committed to respecting the mandate of the public prosecutor as provided for in Article 157 of the Constitution.

“The Constitution stipulates that the DPP cannot be directed by any individual including the Courts in playing that role. The Courts are committed to respecting that role and, absent exceptional circumstances; the Courts will not interfere with the discretion of the DPP,” the forum noted.

The judges however cautioned that they will “intervene in exceptional cases where prosecutorial abuse is demonstrated.”

The undertaking is seen as an assurance to DPP Noordin Haji who CJ Maraga openly bashed during a national anti-corruption conference on Friday last week faulting the manner in which his office drafted charge sheets.

“Mr Haji, look at the way you frame cases. You put 30 persons on a single charge sheet and they are represented by 30 lawyers. How long do you think that will take?” he posed.

Maraga had also criticized the Director of Criminal Investigations for staging arrests on Fridays, a move he said had resulted into the accumulation of petitions in form of preliminary objections further crowding court diaries.

“We’re not going to win the war against corruption by Friday arrests and I want our police to stop that. We’re now sidetracked hearing petitions which ordinarily we should not be hearing so that we focus on actual cases,” he told the conference also attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

Maraga also accused the police of mishandling evidence.

“A police officer is charged with murder using a firearm. The case is investigated by very senior police officers but when they come to court knowing very well the firearm is central to the case they come with a wrong serial number,” he elaborated.