By Pravin Bowry
Article 50 (9) of the Constitution states that Parliament shall enact legislation for the protection, rights and welfare of victims of offences.
Under the Fifth Schedule, dealing with “Legislation to be enacted by Parliament” no time limit for this legislation is stipulated — perhaps an omission but the former Attorney-General publicly had acknowledged the urgency of legislation to protect the interests of the victims.
To state that violent crimes in Kenya are on the increase is perhaps an understatement. Murders, manslaughters, robberies and assaults of all types and degrees not only leave physiological scars on the victims but, more often than not, grave physical injuries. The plight of innocent victims, from bystanders to those on official duty, has never been addressed by the judicial system.
These victims of violent crimes have no recourse or redress against known or unknown criminals, whether investigated or non-investigated, convicted or free and untraceable. If the culprit is known, getting redress is near impossible when inevitably the criminal has no real means or is in jail.
Compensation schemes to compensate victims of crime exist in many legal systems of most western jurisdictions around the world.
Despite the emergence of the schemes in modern statutory framework, the method of providing compensation for victims of crimes is centuries-old and can be traced to ancient Babylonian Greek, Jewish and German laws.
Even in African tribal and customary laws there is a distinct and clear tribal compensatory formula as depicted in the often quoted “blood money” concept.
In 1968 New Zealand took the first step to enact the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act and it was established by statute and state funded. In India, where compensation to the victim is awarded at the time of sentencing and the amount is set off against the wages the prisoner earns while offering prison labour. This ensures that the perpetrator of a crime pays for his actions, literally!
expression of sympathy
Britain had for about two decades operated a non-statutory scheme, later to enact the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act, 1995. USA, Canada, Australia and even European countries now have efficient and well organised schemes for compensation to those who fall prey largely to violent crimes.
Should all tax payers or citizens not bear the costs of crime since it is an unavoidable feature of the modern world?