- Nyanza region ODPP senior assistant director Sebastian Mutinda said the sensitisation will equip stakeholders with necessary knowledge.
- He said more than 10 cases have been done through plea bargain and diversion process.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has embarked on public sensitisation on plea bargaining and diversion policies in Nyanza.
Nyanza region ODPP senior assistant director Sebastian Mutinda said the sensitisation will equip stakeholders with necessary knowledge on plea bargain and diversion in criminal justice.
He said the one-week sensitisation targets to educate stakeholders to understand the two policies and needs to embrace the process in handling court cases.
Among those targeted in the sensitisation include journalists, officers from Judiciary, probation, prisons, EACC and ODPP prosecution counsels.
"We are also targeting actors such as civil society and NGOs dealing with children issues among others," Mutinda said.
He said more than 10 cases have been done through plea bargain and diversion process.
Similar sensitisations have been conducted in Coast, Nairobi, Garissa and Wajir by the ODPP.
Mutinda, however said many people still do not understand well the plea bargain and diversion in criminal justice, thinking that it is going away from responsibility of justice.
He urged residents in Nyanza to embrace the policies while seeking for justice.
Mutinda said prosecution counsel drawn from Nyanza have been sensitised on the same.
On Monday, during a media breakfast on plea bargain and diversion policies in Nyanza region, Journalists drawn from Kisumu were sensitised on the two document policies and how it works as well as role in criminal justice by ODPP prosecution counsels.
They were trained by ODPP senior principal prosecution counsel Judith Jepchirchir (Nairobi), principal prosecution counsel Victor Alenga (Homa Bay) and principal prosecution counsel Maureen Odumba (Kisumu).
Jepchirchir said sensitisation is crucial as it empowers journalists to fully understand plea bargain and diversion policies to enable them to report effectively and educate citizens.
She, however, said the two policies are not applicable in rape, defilement or sexual offences.
A plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between an accused and a prosecutor, where the accused agrees to voluntarily plead “guilty” or “no contest “for a concession from a prosecutor in exchange for a plea.
In Kenya, Plea Bargaining is guided by Section 137 A - of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Criminal Procedure (Plea Bargaining) Rules, 2018.
Before negotiating a plea agreement, the prosecutor must ensure the accused is informed of the right to a full trial before a court of law
He or she should also tell the accused that there is sufficient evidence to support a conviction and that it is in the public interest and that the process must be fair, just, transparent and of integrity.
“The accused understands the case against him/her and voluntarily agrees to negotiate. In serious cases the accused should get legal representation. The accused must understand the sentences that are available.
The prosecutor should also ensure sentence reflects public interest, confidence, safety and public wellbeing.
Meanwhile, diversion is an alternative to criminal prosecution and a means of resolving criminal cases by removing the matter from the court system in deserving cases.
Diversion offers a ‘second chance’ to a person who has committed an offence but accepts responsibility, promotes compensation for the victims of the crime, reduces build-up of cases in the courts, saves money which can be used for other government services.
It also reduces overcrowding in prisons, offenders will not have a criminal record, promotes quick resolution of cases and promotes peace and reconciliation.
Those eligible for diversion are adult offenders alleged to have committed minor offences, cases involving serious offences where exceptional circumstances exist, all child offenders, vulnerable persons such as elderly persons and persons living with mental illness.
In plea bargaining, an accused can voluntarily plead guilty to charge in exchange for a lower sentence for instance murder reduced to manslaughter, or 10 years imprisonment reduced to maybe 4 years.
The ODPP wants the public to understand that not all cases must go to court, especially a petty offence but can be handled through diversion.
“One can apologise and compensate the victim. Even assault, depending on the magnitude, may not necessarily go to court as parties may agree to apologise and compensate where necessary,” Jepchirchir said.
The ODDP developed and is implementing these policies with the aim to shorten the time cases take in court.
The two policies will help reduce case backlog in court, decongest prisons because not many people will be jailed or if jailed, their term will be shorter. They also save time for the court, prosecution, accused and victim.
-Edited by SKanyara