A recent audit by the national council on administrative justice has confirmed that the Kenyan criminal justice system is largely skewed against the poor. It is an indictment against a system that is expected to guarantee justice to people from all walks of life including all forms of vulnerability.
The audit found out that more poor people are arrested charged and sent to prison as compared to the wealthy. More findings revealed that economic driven and social disturbance offenses which are rated as petty such as lack of business licenses, being drunk and disorderly, form 70% of cases processed through the justice system.
Major concerns as per the findings were that serious offenses like organized crimes, capital offenses, and sexual offenses had the highest rates of acquittal and withdrawals.
“Its a fact that the majority of people in prison are from the low stratum of society. Crime is happening across the divide and from where I sit, we have realized that people end up in prison because of a lack of adequate representation, lack of knowledge about their rights so they don’t know how to defend themselves. It also comes to the economy, who can afford legal representation.
“Serious crImes have a higher threshold for proof and if the investigations are not done well they likelihood of them being dismissed is high. Strengthening legal systems and quality investigations as well as public awareness could go a long way,” said Peter Ouko, Founder Si Poa.
While the health justice interface in Kenya is not well understood, capitalizing on the audit recommendation for institutional reforms in policing and prosecution systems could straighten the matters.