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Kenya kickstarts country-wide sensitization on diversion and plea bargaining

Mombasa, Kenya, 15 October 2019 - Kenya's Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) gave a media briefing today on the country's new Diversion Policy and Guidelines and Plea-Bargaining Guidelines.

The documents, developed with technical assistance from UNODC through the European Union-funded Programme for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery in Kenya (PLEAD), have the potential to address the perennial backlog of cases within Kenyan courts, and to expedite the trial process, leading to enhanced access to justice.

The media briefing has set the stage for a country-wide sensitization exercise which seeks to create buy-in from stakeholders of the ODPP-led diversion and plea bargaining programmes and instill greater confidence in the criminal justice system.

With the support of UNODC, the sensitization kicked off in earnest with a two-day training of prosecutors from the coastal region, comprising the counties of Mombasa, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Kwale and Kilifi on different aspects of diversion and plea-bargaining.

This was preceded by a stakeholders’ breakfast meeting bringing together regional heads of different government agencies such as the Judiciary, Probation and Aftercare Service (PACS), Children’s Department and the Department of Correction Services to discuss collaboration in the operationalization of the policies. During the breakfast meeting, the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Jacob Ondari, urged stakeholders to partner with the ODPP in ensuring that diversion and plea bargaining are effectively implemented in the region.

Criminal justice actors and support structures within the region were also engaged on the benefits of diversion and plea-bargaining. During the workshop, the support structures, which included civil society organizations, para-legals and religious leaders, established a mechanism amongst themselves for referrals and supporting the efforts of ODPP in areas such as rehabilitation of drug users, counselling and mentorship. About 70 criminal justice actors and support structures benefited from the sensitization workshop, while about 30 prosecutors were trained on diversion and plea-bargaining.

The week-long exercise saw ODPP conduct radio talk show interviews with five local radio stations within the coastal region namely Radio Salaam, Pwani FM, Radio Rahma, Radio Kaya and Baraka FM. The interviews were conducted in Swahili which most locals are conversant with. The team also got an opportunity to respond to questions from callers.  

So as to reach out to the public, the ODPP pitched tent outside the Mombasa law courts which houses both the magistrates court and the high court, as well as Tononoka law court which handles children’s matters. During the engagements, IEC material comprising of Swahili and English factsheets on plea-bargaining and diversion were disseminated. Posters were also pinned on the court notice boards detailing the steps, process and benefits of diversion and plea-bargaining.

The Coast Region sensitization exercise culminated in visits to remand facilities. These included the Mombasa Remand Prison, Shimo la Tewa Women, Likoni Children’s remand, Malindi Prison and children’s remand, where the ODPP engaged remandees with a view of sensitizing them as well as identifying possible cases for diversion and plea bargaining.

The next sensitization targets the North Eastern region and is set to be conducted in November 2019.

 See also PLEAD and ODPP.