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PLEAD Laptops Handover Ceremony, Supreme Court of Kenya

Speech by Amado Philip de Andrés, UNODC Regional Representative

Nairobi, 6 May 2020

Honorable Chief Justice David Maraga

Ambassador Simon Mordue

Chief Registrar Anne Amadi

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji

The Director of Probation and Aftercare Service, Mary Mbau

The Commissioner General of Priso,n Wycliffe Ogalo

The Inspector General of Police, Hillary Mutyambai

Other NCAJ members

Ladies and gentlemen

All protocol observed

Tomorrow it will be eight weeks since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Kenya. 

It is remarkable that within such a short period, the Judiciary has embraced virtual court hearings to dispense justice. And that is just one example of how your sector has adapted. 

I’m convinced the justice sector was the fastest acting, most forward-thinking sector in Kenya in terms of how institutions responded. Kenya’s justice sector has been extremely proactive in introducing measures to protect the lives of staff and citizens and adapt to the emerging challenges surrounding the pandemic. 

I want to commend the NCAJ Secretariat and its membership on the way you’ve seized this opportunity to work differently – individually and collectively. 

I see ingenuity. I see innovation. 

As the crisis unfolded, UNODC received numerous requests for assistance from criminal justice actors. 

UNODC is fast-tracking planned communications support for NCAJ and assists in enhancing collaboration among Council members to achieve a consistent approach to communicating the sector’s COVID-19 response as it unfolds. Additionally, PLEAD partners will be supported to disseminate IEC materials. 

Even in the difficult and unprecedented times we find ourselves in, the wheels of justice keep turning. 

It’s important that we acknowledge the willingness with which many justice sector officials have adapted to this unprecedented crisis. At UNODC, we stand with you. 

A key factor for realizing an effective COVID-19 response by the justice sector is the coordination role of NCAJ in overseeing the implementation of agreed measures. 

With European Union financial support, UNODC is upscaling its support for the NCAJ and its Secretariat, including strengthening the overall response coordination mechanisms and assistance with regular COVID-19 response planning and the coordination of virtual meetings. 

The National Police Service (NPS) and Kenya Prisons Service have not been direct beneficiaries of PLEAD, yet there is a strong need to support their respective roles in the response. 

This will be done under the NCAJ umbrella. For instance, due to the pandemic, diversion of petty offences are being dealt with at the police station level. The Council has agreed  to release suspects of petty offences on cash bail or police bond. Such measures have created an urgent need for training, for example so police can consider pre-charge diversion in line with Kenya’s new Diversion Policy. 

UNODC will fast-track the procurement of ICT equipment, primarily to enable all required parties to participate in virtual court proceedings and furnish the court with necessary documentation electronically. 

Today we’re delighted to be part of this handover of the first consignment of 38 laptops through PLEAD with the generous support of the European Union. Based on our consultations, these will be allocated as follows:

  • Kenya Police Service – 5 (mainly for use during online training that UNODC has under development)
  • Probation and Aftercare Service - 5 (to support their preparation and electronic submission of social enquiry reports)
  • ODPP - 5 (these will be assigned to the Prosecution Counsel in Nairobi, again to support the full participation of all agencies in virtual court proceedings)
  • The Judiciary - 5 (I understand these will be for use in Nairobi courts)
  • Kenya Prisons Service - 18 (Of these 4 will go straight to Nairobi remand to help with the decongestion, with the remainder to be assigned for immediate use within the Prisons Service)

Building the capacity of frontline officers is even more crucial due to crime trends identified by the ODPP in March, such as: sexual violence, especially in relation to children; domestic violence heightened during the curfew; fraud and the sale of counterfeit items including substandard sanitizers.

Through PLEAD, ongoing technical support, training and sensitization will continue. This will include supporting wider use of diversion and plea bargaining as alternatives to imprisonment to help decongest the prisons, regarded as high-risk environments for virus outbreaks. Active case management will be another focus area for training. 

Key criminal justice institutions have to be sufficiently budgeted. Justice sector officers are essential workers on the frontline in this country’s battle against coronavirus. Many in the criminal justice sector continue to perform vital frontline roles where they are vulnerable to infection and transmission. These workers include prosecutors, probation officers, police officers, children officers and staff in places of custody. Within the next fortnight, UNODC expects to also deliver a significant quantity of PPE for immediate use by the justice sector’s frontline officials, focused on police and prisons. This will include reusable masks, hand sanitizer and gloves. Further, with the dissemination of the laptops, UNODC hopes to support measures to stop the spread of the virus inside prisons through the use of alternatives to facilitate access to justice through use video conferencing for court hearings and proceedings.   

There is certainly plenty of momentum for change and improved service delivery across the criminal justice sector. 

Even with this ongoing crisis, I am confident that within several years, the combined efforts being supported through PLEAD should result in citizens reporting better satisfaction with the delivery of justice services and greater faith in their formal and informal justice systems. 

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank our government partners. As UNODC looks to the future with our partners, one of the positive sides which is now emerging from the pandemic, I believe, will be improved efficiency in the country’s justice system through technology, and this is something we are committed to supporting. 

Thank you. 

See News: Pandemic prompts innovation by Kenya's justice sector