The Judiciary has set aside five days to dispense over 600 cases involving minors at the Nakuru Law Courts.
The High Court Judge, Lady Justice Joy Matheka said the judiciary was committed to ensuring that cases of defilement against minors are heard and determined within ninety days.
Justice Matheka observed that minors and their families suffered physical and mental anguish when such matters drag before law courts for long periods and the minors have to narrate the ordeal repeatedly.
“We are keen to reduce a backlog of cases involving minors to cut down on time and resources spent by their families in attending court sessions. It is also healthy for their mental wellbeing that the cases are disposed within the shortest time possible,” said Justice Matheka.
Speaking during the Children’s Service Week held at the Nakuru Law Courts, Lady Justice Matheka observed that the National Council on Administration of Justice (NCAJ) had outlined procedures and rules to be observed when handling cases involving minors.
According to NCAJ 60 percent of crimes committed in counties involved sexual offences with Kilifi having the highest prevalence at 90 percent, where seven out of ten persons accused of defilement were adults.
Though six months is the maximum time allowed by law to resolve the cases before courts, NCAJ observes six out of ten cases involving minors take more than six months to be completed while three out of ten cases take between one and two years to resolve.
The Council has also expressed concern that six out of ten cases pending before courts were sexual offences, while one in ten cases of sexual assault against minors took more than two years to resolve.
Justice Matheka further said justice for children ought to be expedited through use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms that will also ensure the victims get justice.
“Offenders who are minors should only be detained as a last resort. As a country, we need to create safe spaces and channels for children to report abuse to police, courts and other authorities in compliance with the 2010 constitution,” she said.
The Nakuru County Attorney Caleb Nyamwange said the devolved unit was committed to securing the well-being and human rights of vulnerable minors particularly street children.
He said the county administration had set aside Sh.10 million towards construction of street children’s rehabilitation and education centre in Njoro Sub-County that will accommodate 80 minors once completed.
Nyamwange called on stakeholders and legal practitioners to come up with a framework where minors from poor backgrounds can enjoy free and effective representation before courts.
“There have been cases where wealthy sexual offenders hire the best lawyers to defeat justice against poor and vulnerable victims. We must ensure that justice is served equally across board regardless of one’s financial status and social standing,” said the County Attorney.
Justice Daniel Musinga noted that the Judiciary had put in place Small Claims Courts (SMCs) to clear a backlog of pending cases particularly in matters where claims do not exceed Sh.200, 000.
He said the courts presided over by adjudicators appointed by the Judicial Service Commission will only handle matters related to contract for sale and supply of goods, money held and received, liabilities with regard to loss or damage of property and counterclaims against any contract.
By Jane Ngugi/David Mururia/Mark Wayne