EXPEDITING JUSTICE

Haji pushes for plea bargaining to reduce case backlog

Says once prosecutors have enough evidence on a case, they should offer suspect plea bargaining

In Summary

•Haji says under plea bargaining Family Bank admitted guilt in the NYS2 scandal and was fined

•Says there is not reason a person found with three rolls of bhang should go to jail

Director Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji at Integrity Centre on January 13
NEW APPROACH: Director Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji at Integrity Centre on January 13
Image: EZEKIEL AMING'A

Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji on Tuesday called for full roll out of plea bargaining as a tool for decongesting the criminal justice system. 

Plea bargaining will ensure speedy resolution of cases and reduce congestion in prisons, he said.

Plea bargaining is a negotiated arrangement in which an accused person agrees to enter a guilty plea in return for some concession from the prosecutor.

This may mean the defendant pleading guilty to a less serious charge or to one of several charges in return for the dismissal of other charges. It may also mean the defendant pleading guilty to the original criminal charge in return for a more lenient sentence.

Haji said the arrangement is not new, that it has existed in the country's "criminal justice system for a long time in theory yet its applicability has been poorly utilized."

The DPP spoke while unveiling guidelines for the process.

He said the huge case backlogs in courts and lengthy litigation will be effectively addressed when the new system is given priority, especially in economic crime cases.

"There has been a common belief that mega-corruption suspects have it easy once they have been arraigned as the litigation takes a long time. With this new approach, most of these cases will be dispensed with expeditiously," he said. 

Haji said once the prosecutors have enough evidence to secure a conviction on a case, they would offer plea bargaining as an option to ensure speedy resolution. 

In Family Bank's case, it admitted culpability in the NYS scandal and paid up to Sh64 million as fines under plea bargaining. 

Haji said the option would give offenders a second chance "as it focuses on restorative justice rather than the retributive one."

"Our justice system is about meting out punishment to offenders. We want to reform it to ensure that while justice is served to the satisfaction of the victims, the offenders are given a second chance and that they are also re-integrated into the society," he said.

"There is no need to imprison someone because they had three or so rolls of bhang. Just take that person to a rehabilitation centre and help them be productive in line with the law."

Florence Omondi, the deputy commissioner of prisons, said her department is holding more than 55,000 inmates and the DPP-spearheaded approach would be great in reducing the numbers.

"Majority of them are petty offenders most of whom cannot afford bail. Plea bargaining would go along way in ensuring that they are helped to be rehabilitated or reintegrated as the numbers go down," she said.