The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) has launched a guide in the criminal justice system to assist prosecutors when handling cases involving children.
Speaking during the launch of the program at the Prosecution Training Institute in Nairobi, DPP Noordin Haji said the guide will ensure fairness to children who come into conflict with the law and guarantee protection of their rights during the trial process.
“I have no doubt in my mind that the guidelines being launched today as well as the measures we have put in place will go a long way in further ensuring that the criminal justice system is within reach for all children and fulfill the promise of fairness. Furthermore, some of the measures we have put in place intends to give the Kenyan child a second chance and a safe environment to live in,”
Haji stated that there are instances where children have been tried as adults and where their rights have been violated as well as being charged for petty crimes and ended up being deprived of their liberty without due regard to the circumstances that brought them into the criminal justice.
“Whereas the Court and prosecution do not have a legal or statutory duty once the case is concluded, this situation exposes children in conflict with the law to possible violations of their rights,” Haji said, “Due to their vulnerability, children who come into contact with the laws as victims and witnesses of crime also need protection in order to prevent secondary victimization while in the justice system.”
President of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) Nelson Havi pointed out that the guide could not have come at a better time as cases of child offenders have significantly increased.
“I have gone through the guidelines and I can assure you that they will provide the most appropriate means to the ODPP to ensure that as we process child offenders, their rights under the Constitution and the National Convention and treaties are guaranteed,”
The guide is seeking to increase awareness and understanding of the rights of children in conflict with or in contact with the law as well as serve as a practical framework to guide prosecutors on how to handle cases involving children.
The guide considered nine guiding principles of child justice including the best interest of the child, right to representation, legal aid and legal assistance, protection from torture, participation and right to be heard, deprivation of liberty as a measure of last resort, promotion of dignity and worth, protection from discrimination, right to privacy and right to parental care and parental participation in proceedings.
Others who were in attendance include Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Twalib Mbarak and Supreme Court Judge Smokin Wanjala who represented Chief Justice Martha Koome.
The two pledged support for the ODPP saying they will work together to ensure the implementation of the guidelines .At the same time, Haji also launched a Diploma in Public Prosecution Curriculum that is set to equip Prosecutors with more knowledge and skills.
Edited by: Chepkosgei Jedidah