DPP has a case to answer on collapse of high-profile cases

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji during the launch of ODPP Election Call Centre at the ODPP House in Nairobi on August 2022. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Upon realising the cancer that corruption is to the economy, drafters of the Constitution put in place mechanisms to ensure the fight was fought and won. Among the mechanisms was Chapter Six of the Constitution on integrity. 

The other pieces of legislation were on ensuring offices involved in the fight are insulated from executive whim or interference from external forces. The offices and officials were to be guided by the rule of law and the Constitution. One such office is the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). The office was given the mandate to prosecute any criminal case without being prompted by anyone or being given orders to pick or drop cases. 

The office was to look at the merit and the evidence of each case before presenting it in court. The Constitution dictates thus: "The Director of Public Prosecutions shall not require the consent of any person or authority for the commencement of criminal proceedings and in the exercise of his or her powers or functions, shall not be under the direction or control of any person or authority. In exercising the powers, the Director of Public Prosecutions shall have regard to the public interest, the interests of the administration of justice and the need to prevent and avoid abuse of the legal process."

There is no doubt that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has been working hard to meet the expectations of Kenyans and the Constitution. However, yesterday's events where high-profile cases were either dropped or the DPP sought leave to drop them is a blot in the fight against corruption. That these cases cannot proceed is an indictment of the judicial process, right from the investigating arm to the prosecuting wing. It is not in doubt that malfeasance occurred in the constituencies or counties or public utilities, it is more of finding who is culpable. 

However, the DPP said the cases cannot proceed. Some of them have been in court for years and that suddenly the evidence is not watertight smirks of prosecutorial incompetence. The evidence should have been tested before the matter went to court. Indeed, the DPP has been insisting that the investigative agencies providing watertight evidence before the case can be lodged in court. It is matter of concern when several high-profile cases are dropped in a day.

If the accused were innocent, why subject them to months or years of torture in the corridors of justice? Someone has to answer to Kenyans why the cases have crumbled all of a sudden. The DPP owes the public an explanation. 

Granted, the DPP has in the past dropped cases for lack for evidence or technicalities. However, the rate at which high-profile cases are collapsing is worrying. Conclusion of cases and successful prosecution acts as a deterrence to future crimes. When the DPP demonstrates that high-profile cases cannot be successfully prosecuted, that can embolden plunderers.

We ask the office to demonstrate independence by giving cogent explanations as to why these cases could not fly. We ask DPP to outline the success rate of prosecuting high-profile cases and how investigators can avoid scenarios where after years of hard labour, nothing comes out of it.

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