The Bungoma High Court Judge, Justice Stephen Riechi has called on parents to guide their children against attending night vigils which he blames for the rising number of teenage crime cases landing in the courts.
Justice Riechi said young people between the ages of 17-23 are committing murder due to sex related misunderstandings mostly brewed during disco ‘matangas’ and urged parents to guide and counsel their children.
He said some of the crimes committed, such as the crime of passion, by these teenagers that send them to prison could have been handled at home if parents played their roles effectively.
Justice Riechi said that if parents do not talk to their children then as a country “we are heading in the wrong direction.”
Addressing the press at the Bungoma law courts during the ongoing public service week which ends on Friday, Justice Riechi said that incest is also on the rise with defilement cases making up to 70 percent of all the cases that they are handling and the male child is most affected.
Justice Riechi said that during the service week, they are dealing with criminal cases where all old matters are heard.
He stated that Justice Bwonwonga from Narok and Lady Justice Wanjiku Cherere from Kisumu are helping other magistrates at Bungoma law courts in hearing and expediting criminal cases to reduce the backlog.
“High courts are on recess to enable judges to write judgments but they have devoted to clear old cases, all matters are fixed on that day should be heard on the same day,” he said.
He continued, “We are dealing with appeals, for example we are handling 109 criminal and 28 civil appeals during this public service week where we hear 12 witnesses per day which translates to 240 witnesses per month, this helps in reducing the number of remandees in prison and reduce the days for prisoners,”.
Riechi said that they are handling 119 murder cases which are below 1 year old and 19 are between 3-5 years old.
Despite having Bungoma law court which was started in 1996, there are other satellites courts in Webuye, Kimilili and Sirisia.
The Bungoma law court has two judges and seven magistrates.
The Judge said that they have set targets and all judicial officers should employ speed to clear the backlog of cases.
“Crime rate is high and disputes all over in Bungoma and they need to be resolved efficiently and quickly, the delay in disposing matters creates chaos,” he said.
Currently, Bungoma High Court has 1061 civil matters and 559 criminal cases out of which 119 are murder cases adding that it takes 2-3 years to complete a murder case.
He said the court will manage the case list by fixing only matters that can realistically be heard.
Based on this, all judges will be required to listen to 12 witnesses a day and present reports to the presiding judge at the end of every month to ensure diligent discharge of services to people.
The court has also come up with a mechanism of grouping similar cases which will be heard on similar weeks through the service week program that has been prioritized as one way of clearing jam on hearings and ruling of cases.
Family, land, robbery and civil cases will be handled separately and at once so that minimum time is taken on the same.
However, Riechi insisted that prominence will be given to children cases and on the same, priority will be given to cases where witness protection is required to prevent further crime and above all, protection of minors.
Land disputes will also require that the parties provide adequate files for immediate decisions.
By Roseland Lumwamu