Kisumu Law Courts have taken advantage of the ongoing Children Service Week to clear a backlog of cases involving young people in the county.
Senior Resident Magistrate in charge of juvenile cases in Kisumu, Stella Telewa told the press that the courts would address children cases that have dragged for over six months during the week. Kisumu has over 100 such cases a majority of which involve children in need of care and protection.
The exercise whose objective is to create awareness on children’s rights, encouraging child participation as well as clearing children cases backlog kicked off in the lakeside city on Monday 22 and ends on Friday November 26.
The annual event is spearheaded by the National Council on the Administrative Justice’ (NCAJ) Special Task Force on children matters in conjunction with the Judiciary and other stakeholders.
The Kisumu event was launched on Monday by NCAJ Chairperson Lady Justice Teresia Matheka. Kisumu Presiding Judge Justice Fred Ochieng’ attended the launching.
According to Lady Justice Matheka, since its inception in 2016, the initiative has enabled the courts to conclude over 3,500 cases marking a milestone in social transformation in line with the Judiciary’s vision.
In a speech read on her behalf by Nyanza Regional Prison Commander David Kilundo, Justice Matheka hailed the courts for the success of the service weeks on children matters adding courts have proactively taken up the service week initiative and have started collating data on child cases. She said a pro-bono lawyer’s scheme has also been established for counsels who handle juvenile cases.
Justice Matheka regretted that about 96 per cent of children in the judiciary system are implicated wrongfully and are subjected to a life that they do not deserve.
“There are over 700 cases of children in holding institutions, but only 33 of these are genuine children in conflict with the law. It is indeed sad that 96 per cent of children in child holding institutions are serving illegal sentences and are missing out of school,” revealed Justice Matheka.
She encouraged the judicial system to use the incarceration of children as a last resort as provided for within Article 53 of the constitution.
“Children in need of care and protection should be placed within alternative family options such as kinship, foster family and guardians instead of being held in any institution,” she added.
NCAJ has unveiled standard operating procedures on Child Protection Units that require children to be held separate from adults in police cells.
“All police stations should have a Child Protection Unit to hold children temporarily. However, in the first instance when a child is apprehended, diversion should be considered for the child to ensure that they do not enter the system,” Justice Matheka said.
The report further indicated that defilement is the most rampant crime committed against juveniles, with thousands of such vices reported in the country each year.
By Robert Ojwang’