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Shortage of magistrates, prosecutors slowing children cases

Child rights defenders have expressed concern over the slow pace of court cases involving rights violations against minors saying they were taking too long to conclude.

The child rights defenders who included Children officers and Civil Society Organizations dealing with children matters noted that there were bottlenecks between the Judiciary, Police, and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution leading to delays or collapse of the cases.

Speaking in Nanyuki on Wednesday after the conclusion of a two-day workshop on violence against children survey and National Prevention and Response Plan Dissemination that also included a sensitization walk in the town, Deputy Director of Children Services Mwambi Mong’are noted that cases involving children were not being concluded within six months as per the Kenyan laws.

He noted that cases involving minors had many stakeholders playing different roles and therefore that could be one of the reasons they experienced delays in concluding.

“Cases involving children have many stakeholders. As a directorate, our role is to do the social inquiry for the protection and care if a child is in conflict with the law. Other players come in such as investigating agencies, the Probation Department to handle pre-bail and bonding of the child, and also we have the ODPP to prosecute the case,” Mong’are said.

The Deputy Director of Children’s Services also noted that cases of witnesses failing to testify and going into hiding had greatly hampered the conclusion of the cases with some collapsing due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Mong’are called on all arms of government dealing with children matters in court to find a way forward to fast-track cases involving minors noting that the most common forms of violence perpetrated on children included sexual, emotional, physical, and most recently online bullying.

“You will find that in most cases, sexual and emotional violence is perpetrated by close people to the children such as parents and caregivers while physical violence is mostly from peers and is more common in boys,” Mong’are said.

The Executive Director Dr. Helen Gathogo of One More Day for Children Foundation, a girls’ safe house for young girls rescued from early marriage and Female Genital mutilation in Laikipia North Sub-county, noted that the big caseload of cases involving minors was a concern in the country and called on the Judiciary to designate magistrates to hear the cases in all court stations.

“We are urging the Judiciary and the ODPP to increase staff so that children’s cases get a priority in court since the minors cannot hold onto the evidence for long without forgetting,” Dr. Gathogo said.

She added that case backlog brought about by a shortage of magistrates and prosecutors was partly to blame for the delay in children matters and therefore called on the two concerned arms of government to increase the workforce.

Dr. Gathogo also advocated the opening of protection and care files in all children matters in court so as to prioritize the case once it’s taken before a judge or magistrate.

Virginia Wambui from ODPP said that her office was committed to expediting children’s matters as fast as possible but added that they were constrained in terms of human resources since the same prosecutors were also handling other court matters.

By Martin Munyi

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