UNFAVOURABLE JUSTICE SYSTEM

Child offenders lack legal representation in court — report

In some cases, children are forced to drop out of school because of prolonged legal battles

In Summary
  • Children who are remanded sometimes drop out of school and are robbed their social life as they stay in remand homes for years.
  • UoN Mombasa campus partnered with Likoni Children’s Remand Home to offer legal clinics twice a month to speed up cases of young offenders admitted at the facility.
University of Nairobi Mombasa Campus director Dr Sarah Kinyanjui and Likoni Children's Remand Home manager Irene Rukaria during a legal aid clinic at the facility on Friday.
CHIDREN IN CONFLICT WITH THE LAW University of Nairobi Mombasa Campus director Dr Sarah Kinyanjui and Likoni Children's Remand Home manager Irene Rukaria during a legal aid clinic at the facility on Friday.
Image: ONYANGO OCHIENG

The Criminal Justice System in Kenya is unfavourable to young offenders, a study conducted by the University of Nairobi has revealed.

The research, conducted last year, found that most children lacked legal representation while attending court sessions.

Most children, who are in conflict with the law, find themselves spending more time in Children’s Remand Home before their cases are concluded.

Cases of children in conflict with the law are expected to be completed within 90 days to allow them to continue with their studies.

However, in some cases, children are forced to drop out of school because of prolonged legal battles.

Remand homes are supposed to be temporary shelters for young offenders, but others spend more than three years at the facilities.

University of Nairobi Mombasa campus director Sara Kinyanjui said the delay in delivery of justice is due to most children lacking legal representation in court.

“Remand homes are supposed to be temporary areas of stay as the cases proceed. However, the children are sometimes forced to stay in remand homes for a very long time because they do not have lawyers,” Dr Kinyanjui said.

She said they also found out that children who had legal representation had minimal contact or never met with their lawyers.

It is for this reason that law students at the UoN Mombasa campus partnered with Likoni Children’s Remand Home to offer legal clinics twice a month to speed up cases of young offenders at the facility.

The project is funded by the United Nations Development Programme- Amkeni Wakenya project to ensure equal access to justice.

The legal aid clinic for the young offenders at the Likoni Children’s Remand Home became operational last month.

“We have been coming here to talk to them and find out how their cases are progressing. We also try to link them up with lawyers,” she said.

Kinyanjui said the community needs to support children as most of their problems emanate from where they live.

“It is improper to castigate them as they undergo the criminal justice system, which takes its toll on them both physically and psychologically,” she said.

Kinyanjui rooted for Alternative Dispute Resolution for children-related cases, saying it will help them continue with their studies without being taken away from the community.

“Remand homes rob the children of their social life and some are forced to drop out of school. The diversion in cases or ADR will be an alternative to resolve these matters,” she said.

Irene Rukaria, who manages the Likoni Children’s Remand Home, said the facility, which accommodates 86 children, currently houses 29 (26 boys and three girls).

The facility serves nine courts spread in the counties of Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi and Taita Taveta.

“Ideally, the remand home admits children who are in conflict with the law, but right now you will realise that we have a category of children that are said to be in need of care and protection as requested by the court, but for a temporary basis until their matters are dispensed,” Rukaria said.

While on remand, the children undergo different programmes ranging from counselling sessions, life skills training and case conferences with their families to try to address some of the issues that might have led them to crime.

They also have daily library sessions, among other activities.

“The new library sessions have aroused their interest in reading and has had a significant impact on the way they articulate their cases in court,” Rukaria said.

-Edited by SKanyara