By Stephen Makabila
The rapid expansion of the Judiciary has run into teething problems thanks to a shortage of public prosecutors. Sources say close to a third of the 510 magistrates employed by the Government are sitting idle as the backlog of cases grows.
The crisis is now being described as a national security matter.
Some 160 recently recruited magistrates are unable to perform their duties due to a shortage of State prosecutors. There are only 83 State counsels and 290 police prosecutors presenting cases before 580 judges and magistrates courts.
Plans to increase the number of High Court judges by 80 and Resident Magistrates by 180 could make matters worse. Director of of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko recently raised the matter with the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC), warning of potential paralysis in the criminal justice system.
He has dismissed plans to hire only 106 more prosecutors as “sabotage”, charging that “someone, somewhere does not want an effective prosecution service”. Acting Head of Public Service Francis Kimemia, who chairs NSAC in his roles at the presidency and Cabinet Office, has called a crisis meeting for this coming week to address the matter.
Nairobi, Mombasa and Bungoma are among the hardest hit stations, with Tobiko forced to turn down requests for more prosecutors due to inadequate personnel. According to correspondence in our possession, Tobiko wrote to Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei on June 21 this year notifying her of requests for more prosecutors to serve newly recruited magistrates in Nairobi and Mombasa.
“Chief Magistrate Mombasa requests 10 prosecutors while the OC/Prosecutions, Nairobi area requests 14 prosecutors,” the letter reads. “I expect to receive similar requests from other stations.”
In addition to the 160 hired recently, the Judiciary will employ more magistrates to increase their numbers from 510 to 690. High Court judges will rise from 70 to 150, while judges of the Court of Appeal will go from 11 to 30. The Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the land, has seven judges.
The Office of the DPP, on the other hand, says it needs 844 more State counsels to match the increasingly expanding Judiciary, given the two entities play supplementary roles. Currently, the Office has 83 State counsels down from 93, after ten left to become magistrates. The 290 police prosecutors who back them are being phased out as part of judicial reforms.
In Bungoma, Law Society of Kenya (LSK) officials have also demanded that more prosecutors be posted to the station.
“My numerous requests to Treasury and the Ministry of State for Public Service to recruit 300 prosecutors on an expedited basis was declined on account of lack of funds,” Tobiko says. He confirmed Kimemia is set to host a crisis meeting on the matter at a date to be decided on next week. Kimemia had, in an earlier letter to Tobiko, confirmed having personally received petitions from the public over the prevailing shortage of prosecutors in the country.