DIGITISATION

ODPP launches Decision to Charge mobile application

The platform will allow prosecutors to fill in the DTC forms online from any location

In Summary

• The system enables tracking and monitoring of the status and progress of files and facilitates electronic filing of pleadings and disclosure of evidentiary material.

• It has been developed by local software experts who took time to research and to integrate into it our unique local prosecutorial requirements.

DPP Noordin Haji when he launched the DTC mobile App at his office in Nairobi on Thursday, November 24, 2022
DIGITISATION: DPP Noordin Haji when he launched the DTC mobile App at his office in Nairobi on Thursday, November 24, 2022
Image: ODPP

The Office of the Director Public Prosecution enhanced its digital operations by launching the Decision to Charge Mobile Application.

The initiative supported by the International Justice Mission is meant to complement the Uadilifu Case Management System.

Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji on Thursday said this is in line with the ODPP's strategy of reshaping and enhancing organisational effectiveness through adoption of technology.

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The platform will allow prosecutors to fill in the DTC forms online and offline from any location.

The DTC 2019 is a policy document by the ODPP and constitutes the emerging trend of norm generation by the ODPP in the criminal justice enterprise.

Among others, the DTC has crystallised into a norm of practice within the ODPP replacing its predecessor, the National Prosecution Guidelines.

The DTC Guidelines contain a series of tests and decisions that prosecutors make and consider when handling criminal cases.

In this pursuit, a prosecutor ought to adhere to two salient processes, the Two-Stage Test and the Threshold Test.

The policy is acclaimed as a document that equips prosecutors with independence and allows them to objectively exercise their role as prosecutors.

It will ensure ODPP prosecutors consistently apply evidential and public interest tests when making the decision to charge.

This will prevent criminal proceedings being instituted in cases with insufficient evidence, thus significantly reducing the backlog of cases in the criminal justice system.

The guidelines cover the conduct of prosecutors, their powers, roles and duties in relation to guiding investigations and making the decision to charge.

Also, the independence of the prosecutor in making the decision to charge, duties of disclosure, continuing review and general guidance on discontinuance, plea bargaining, diversion, appeal and revision.

Poor decision-making can have profound consequences for accused persons, victims, witnesses and the Kenyan public.

The guidelines are specially aimed at equipping prosecutors to independently and objectively exercise their role as gatekeepers to the criminal justice system.

Haji said the ODPP is a critical link in the justice chain as the Constitution delegates immense authority to prosecutors.

The reasoned exercise of prosecutorial discretion is essential to the fair, independent, and accountable administration of justice.

He said the decision about whether to initiate charges, the charges to pursue, when to accept a negotiated plea and what to advocate at sentencing are the most fundamental duties of prosecutors.

“We acknowledge that such authority must be accompanied by great responsibility,” Haji said.

"In exercise of this authority, it is important that prosecutors follow processes and steps that ensure consistency, transparency and accountability."

He said when these processes are applied equally and fairly, the result is not only a more efficient and effective system but also an increase in public confidence necessary in the administration of the criminal justice system.

The DTC is the most significant decision a prosecutor makes in the handling of criminal cases.

The power to charge entails considerable discretion on the part of the prosecutor and the decision must, therefore, be founded in law, serve the public interest, engrain fair administration of justice and avoid abuse of the legal process.

Haji said in the many sessions he held, people asked him ‘how do you decide whom to charge and how do you make the decision to charge?’

“These frequently asked questions affirmed our belief that the promise of our criminal justice system depends on how we make the decision to charge," he said.

"It really is about understanding our mission as the ODPP, which is to provide impartial, effective and efficient prosecution services to the public.”

The guidelines document the steps to ensure fairness, consistency, transparency and accountability in the decision-making process and that they are applied equally and fairly to bolster public confidence in the administration of justice.

Under the Public Interest Test, prosecutors will consider the culpability of the suspect, the impact, or harm to the community or victim, the suspect’s age at the time of the offence and whether prosecution is a proportionate response.

“We are in the information age, which is really about the integration of information technologies into virtually every aspect of our existence,” Haji said.

He said when leveraged, technology will provide us with enormous benefits in enhancing effectiveness and efficiency within our criminal justice system.

“Our criminal justice system has been “very paper-driven” with each stakeholder, sitting within “data silos” not easily accessible or even shared with other partners," he said.

"Well, time has proven that in order for us to be effective and ensure justice for our citizens, then those silos must come down and embracing technology is key to flattening these silos.”

The launch of the electronic e-filing by the Judiciary in July 2020 demonstrated how the system enhances the overall efficiency within the criminal justice system.

“We demonstrated the integration between the two institutions. This integration has since reduced the time taken to file a charge sheet from an average of 30 minutes to slightly less than five minutes!” Haji said.

He said the reduced timeline coupled with less human contact mitigates against chances of misplaced and of/lost files, enhancing access to justice through timely and expeditious judicial processes.

The system is aptly named “Uadilifu.”

A swahili word for Integrity, which is the cornerstone of the system.

It has been developed by local software experts who took time to research and to integrate into it our unique local prosecutorial requirements.

"Uadilifu serves to showcase how capable our citizens are especially when we in the justice system use our power to create an environment that is fair and ethical and which in turn fosters creativity and enterprise," Haji said. 

The system enables tracking and monitoring of the status and progress of files and facilitates electronic filing of pleadings and disclosure of evidentiary material.

If deployed and embraced beyond just data capture, the system will serve to enhance holistic collaborations among all partners and ensure that multiple viewpoints are embraced from analysis of crime trends, investigations, prosecutions, convictions and correctional phases.

“More importantly it can also help us know where to focus as we seek to improve the criminal justice system by providing real-time qualitative and quantitative data,” the DPP said.

He urged all actors in the criminal justice system to embrace the use of information technology.

“It will create synergy and ensure transparency, accountability and fairness in the delivery of services,” Haji said.

He said Prosecution Training Institute, has set up an e-learning center to provide resources and conduct continuous joint training both at an agency and interagency level including sessions on the integrated case management system.

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