Settle some cases out of court, urges DPP Haji
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is promoting a new approach where some criminal cases can be resolved without full judicial proceedings.
Haji’s new approach focuses on compensation and restitution, restoration and reintegration.
The approaches –diversion and plea bargain -seek to keep the wheels of justice moving in a timely and cost effective manner and also ensure that punishment for offences consider the impact on both individual and society.
Diversion Policy, a first in Kenya, aims at offering a second chance to offenders who accept responsibility by diverting cases from court process, to be settled out of court, on merit through agreed structures.
On the other hand, Plea Bargaining policy allows an accused person to enter into an agreement or plead guilty to some but not all charges, or a different offence or less serious charge, in exchange for some concessions by the prosecution.
Speaking at the launch yesterday, the Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji said that though the theory had been part of the criminal justice system for long, it has not been applied.
In the new approach, criminal cases need not be prosecuted to finality through a trial if it can be resolved by alternative means.
“Considering that in some cases remandees remain in custody during court proceedings, stakeholders should embrace creative provisions in our laws. Through diversion, we can deal with case backlog, reduce overcrowding in prisons and enhance reconciliation by allowing the victims and offenders settle cases out of court,” the DPP said.
He added: “Diversion is meant to give offenders a second chance in life by assisting them reintegrate into the community, reduce the risks of re-offending, and enable them avoid a criminal record. Those who successfully complete the process will not be convicted and have a criminal record.”
Diversion seeks to address the lasting stigma that attaches to a criminal conviction and incarceration.
The accused may be cautioned formally with or without conditions, victim may be compensated for emotional harm, or restitution by paying compensation of any expenses incurred by the victim.
It may also involve a voluntary activity providing a service to the community, referral to addiction treatment and related programme, or counseling.
Regarding the plea bargain, the DPP said though the law places the burden on prosecution to prove its case, the advocates should embrace the culture of advising their clients to consider plea bargain especially in the face of overwhelming evidence instead of encouraging them to plead “not guilty.”