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End detention of minor offenders

Friday, April 12th, 2024 06:00 | By
Handcuffs
Police cuffs. PHOTO/Pexels

Despite the law prohibiting it, some rogue traffic police officers are still forcing minor traffic offenders to pay cash bail or detaining them.

Article 49(2) of the Constitution states that a person should not be remanded in custody if the offence is punishable by a fine only or by imprisonment for not more than six months.

In most cases, releasing traffic offenders on bail is arbitrary, and the amount of cash bail to be paid is usually left to the discretion of the local traffic commander.

They determine whether or not an offender should be granted cash bail, and the amount.

However, this decision must be regulated and done in accordance with the existing guidelines and regulations.

Rogue officers take advantage of the fact that most Kenyans detest incarceration, lengthy trials and attendant inconveniences to seek cash bail as a pretext for soliciting bribes. They then withdraw the charges and retain part or the whole cash bail.

National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) has also issued traffic guidelines which, among other things, bar police from detaining offenders for minor offences.

The regulations stipulate that when the offence is petty, and the offender is not a flight risk, they should be given a free bond. The guidelines require that such persons be granted time, place and adequate facilities to pay fines or bail.

These provisions, however, do not apply to serious offences such as causing death by dangerous driving, drink-driving and driving a vehicle without insurance.

Cash bail or locking up the offenders are not the only options. Officers can also issue the offenders with the Notice to Attend Court or summons, on convenient dates, instead of locking them up.

Police have raised concerns about the high rate of absconding, where some offenders fail to attend court after being released on cash bail. To discourage this, the courts and police should strictly deal with the absconders including forfeiting the cash bail and issuing a warrant of arrest.

In case the officer has not concluded that the suspect may appear in court, he may launch investigations and issue the offender with a Notice of Intended Prosecution.

It is important that all parties involved must ensure the law is followed and offenders, especially petty ones, are not unnecessarily inconvenienced.

Kenyans must also resolve to be part of the solution by obeying the laws and rejecting bribery.

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