DPP welcomes scrutiny, says he won't budge on independence
NATIONAL | By Nzau Musau and Willis Oketch | November 19th 2021
Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji has welcomed measures to hold his office to account for its decisions but promised not to budge on his independence.
At an engagement with media through the Kenya Editors Guild (KEG), Haji said his is a State office subject to public scrutiny, public commentary, and assessment.
Editors and media practitioners attending the forum in Mombasa yesterday questioned his wide-ranging powers, implementation of new policies on the decision to charge, plea bargaining, and deferral of prosecution among others.
“As the ODPP we are subjecting ourselves to oversight through internal and external oversight mechanisms. We communicate regularly to the public, but we also welcome any measures to further hold us to account, within the ambit of the law,” Haji said.
Haji said his office must uphold the rights of all Kenyans, that he would not agree to rush cases to court so that they can collapse, and that quality evidence is what will carry the day in court.
“Despite a lot of opposition and side talks within and without, we as the only constitutionally mandated prosecution service will continue to strive for our independence,” he said.
The Director of Public Prosecutions will not enter into plea bargains with sexual offenders and those facing crimes against humanity, he said.
Addressing members of the Editors Guild yesterday in Mombasa, DPP Noordin Haji said the 2018 plea bargain guidelines had helped prosecutors to agree with suspects on terms of sentence to reduce case backlog in the courts.
“Contrary to public perception, these guidelines strictly seek to ensure that prosecutions are initiated only in those cases in which there is evidence and where prosecution is justified in the public interest,” said Haji.
Haji said his office had come up with a robust and careful legal framework that initiates deferred prosecution agreements with those facing economic crimes.
Haji acknowledged the role editors play in advancing the quest for justice. He said media remains a critical player in shaping the moral fabric and enhancing the ideals of the nation.
KEG official Ruth Nafuna asked the ODPP to brace itself for closer scrutiny by the media. Media scholar Dr Nyakundi Nyamboga challenged the ODPP to implement a timely and structured flow of information on ongoing cases, as well as the decisions made, and their reasoning.
ODPP officials led by Chief of Staff Lilian Obuo and deputy director Victor Mule apprised the media on their excellence charter, guidelines on decision to charge, plea bargain guidelines, deferred prosecution agreements as well crime mapping from the perspective of their office.
Mule announced plans to gazette a new charge sheet to replace the current ones.
Justice Jane Frances Abodo, the guest speaker, said the DPP works independently. “Nobody can influence DPP’s decision.”
Abodo, the Director of Public Prosecution in Uganda, asked journalists to disseminate information about the prosecution for citizens to understand what was going on in the criminal justice.
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