No more detention of minor offenders in new bail charter

A suspect pleads with police to set him free after he was found inside a chang'aa den at Flamingo Estate in Nakuru on July 05, 2017. [File Photo/Suleiman Mbatiah]

Suspects accused of petty offences will no longer be held in custody or forced to pay cash bail, according to a new police charter.

The offenders will instead be informed to appear in court, on convenient dates, after being issued with free police bonds.

A free police bond is a promise in writing by the accused person that they will appear at the police station or a specific court on an agreed date and time.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Edward Mbugua has instructed all officers to acquaint themselves with the new charter. Mr Mbugua also told police commanders in training colleges to ensure the charter is included in their training notes.

The charter was developed by the Bail and Bond Implementation Committee at the request of the National Council on Administration of Justice for use in the National Police Service.

“We shall not remand you in custody for minor offences, if the offence is punishable by a fine only, or by imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months,” reads the charter.

For serious offences, however, police will promptly grant the offender reasonable bail terms regardless of the time of day or night.

The issuance of cash bail to petty offenders has been abused with investigations revealing that most officers had adopted it as a “safer” way to get bribes.

When a suspect is issued with a cash bail, the law states that it should be remitted to the court or refunded to the suspect in a timely and expeditious manner.

“We shall refund the full cash bail amount to you immediately if no charge is preferred against you, or surrender to you in court upon your first court appearance,” the charter reads.

This doesn't always happen and offenders who cannot raise the money often end up in custody, leading to congestion in the cells.

To avoid the inconvenience of lengthy trials, offenders resort to bribery or plead guilty even to offences they did not commit.

Investigations into the operations of the Traffic Department, for example, revealed that although traffic officers were supposed to issue offenders with a Notice to Attend Court (NTAC), they rarely do so.

The NTAC informs the suspect which court to attend and also the date and time.

In case the officer has not concluded investigations, he may advise the suspect that the matter is being investigated and issue him or her with a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP).

The NIP should not be served later than 14 days from the date the offence was allegedly committed.

Victims of a crime are entitled to be informed of developments in their case, including the decision to grant a suspect bail or bond, and any conditions attached thereto, the law says.

In 2015, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga also launched new guidelines on handling traffic matters.