Court says murder suspects require mental health test

Conducting mental health assessment before a murder suspect is charged is legal, the court has ruled.

Justice Fred Ochieng found that although suspects in other capital offenses such as treason and robbery with violence do not undergo mental assessment before taking a plea, a murder charge is unique as the State has to prove whether there was planned malice.

Justice Ochieng said if a suspect does not want to undergo a mental test, the court can inquire whether they are fit to stand trial for the record. He noted that sometimes suspects might not be aware of their surroundings, or that they are mentally ill.

The judge was ruling in a case filed by three prisoners, Richard Nunda, Washington Awili and Charles Nyaoke, who had argued that it was discriminatory and illegal not to subject other capital offense suspects to mental health tests.

Nunda, Awili and Nyaoke, who were all charged and convicted for the offence of murder, had sued Attorney General Kihara Kariuki, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji and the Kenya Law Report Commission, arguing that mental health assessment derails the trial process.

The AG and DPP opposed the case and asked the court to dismiss it as the three had not demonstrated what was illegal or unfair about the requirement of mental assessment.