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OPINION: Urgent fixing of staff in criminal justice system needed for the war against crime
By Michael Cherambos | Updated Sep 21, 2018 at 16:56 EAT
Director of Public Prosecution Noordin Haji [Court

An advert is out announcing the intention of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) to hire some 200 senior staff.

This, naturally, is meant to boost the capacity of the public prosecutor to deliver on its mandate of ensuring justice is served well to the general public that is its main client.

Coming just a few months after the appointment of a new head, the recruitment is yet another indication that there is willpower in the government to have the systems working. The hunt and finding of the right manpower is the only sure way of making delivery of services different. And better.

In the advert, the ODPP is seeking to fill vacancies in the support departments- accountants, Information and Communications, supply management, Human Resource management etc- areas that are critical for the seamless operation of the office, any office.

But the Noordin Haji led directorate has also called out for key staff. The ODPP is looking to hire 138 people to do the real work the office was set out to do. In the advert, Haji is seeking 26 senior assistant directors of public prosecutions, 16 assistant directors of public prosecutions, 48 senior principal prosecution counsel and 48 principal prosecution counsel. The DPP is principally looking for more legal talent in his team. And it isn’t difficult to see why.

For a very long time, the country has been treated to juvenile drama whenever a matter of public interest is taken to court. At some point, it became so bad that even the police, that very maligned sector of the public service, started showing signs of desperation. They could investigate a crime, arrest the offenders and present them in court only for the prosecutors to come and bungle the case with their unimaginable incompetence!

The poor prosecution was so inept that it became contagious, giving a bad name for every section of the criminal justice system. We have so many murderers, thieves and rapists roaming our streets free not because they have not been caught but because the ODPP did a shoddy job with them when they were arraigned that the courts had no choice but to acquit them! The prosecutors made out courts a cleaning system for criminals in the society.

It is this ineptitude at the prosecution level that made the police resort to what came to be popularly referred to as extra-judicial killing of suspects. The officers would apprehend dangerous criminals, at great risk to their own safety, only to have them back in the streets laughing at them after they are released from remand cells because of “lack of evidence”, a euphemism for poor prosecuting. In most cases, it would end with the criminals killing the police officers for attempting to arrest them.

Eventually, the law enforcers opted to the easier option: round up the lawbreakers gather them at predetermined killing fields and shoot them to death. It saved time and eliminated repeat offending while delivering justice. The downside was some crude officers started using this excuse to extort and settle personal scores and in the process killing innocent people.

To the more current issue, and the seemingly main reason Haji was appointed DPP, the war against grand corruption in the country requires an extremely effective criminal justice system to succeed. So much has been said about how the judiciary has been the weak link in slaying the graft dragon but has it?

In a situation like ours, where billions of shillings are stolen, it will be a bit too ambitious to expect an under-staffed, under-trained public prosecutor to give a fair fight, and win a legal fight against looters who can buy the best lawyers in town. If the prosecutor is not bought off by the billions, he will most probably be dwarfed by his law professor that the corrupt is likely to have hired to represent him. The end result will be, as has been the case in most scandals, that the corrupt will emerge free and more emboldened to ride roughshod over the public and its resources.

The move to arm the public prosecutions with more and higher-calibre arsenal could therefore not come at a more opportune moment in the nation’s history.

But it should not stop there.

The entire criminal justice system needs a relook. And a re-fix!

The Judiciary is a different cup of tea, it will be revisited some other day. Other than, the ODPP, the other cog in the system that requires urgent staffing solution is the investigations- the department headed by another new broom.

When George Kinoti was picked as the director of the department of criminal investigations of the police, many breathed a sigh of hope. Mr Kinoti is one police officers whose time in the service has been coloured with successes. In all the sections he has served, he left a mark. But for the few months, he has been on Kiambu Road as the commander, the former Anti-Banking Fraud officer is looking increasingly overwhelmed.

The Directorate of Criminal Investigations requires massive staff reorganization and retraining if it is to inspire the confidence the appointment of Kinoti evoked among the citizenry. In the meantime, who, again, heads the other two departments of the police, the Administration and the regular?

President Uhuru should revisit these sectors to ensure justice works in this country.

Michael Cherambos comments on topical issues

Email: [email protected]

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