An ad hoc National Council on Administration of Justice (NCAJ) committee appointed on March 15, 2020, and consisting of the major players in the justice sector, met and reported on the following measures that have been taken to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
- In a bid to decongest prisons which are high risk areas, High Court judges have been asked to review 19,000 prison files, with a view to releasing deserving inmates who have less than six months to serve. Further, magistrates across the country will also review and revise bail and bond terms for petty offenders to make them more affordable so that they can be released from Prisons as they await trial.
- Advocates to adopt e-filing in the High Court Commercial and Tax Division and also the Chief Magistrate’s Commercial Court to avoid visiting the courts that are now only operating with skeleton staff.
- Judges to consider electronic delivery of ruling, where appropriate
- To avert any legal crisis, a High Court judge and a Court of Appeal judge are on call every day to deal with urgent matters. Registries will remain open, albeit with a few staff, to receive documents that are either urgent or time bound by law or by court orders.
- Prison visits have been halted and no visitors are being allowed at the staff quarters either. Prison labour is only being utilized for essential services.
- The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has stopped new applications for Certificate of Good Conduct which attract large numbers of people.
- The police are not effecting warrants of arrest for the two week period, nor are they assisting in executing of court orders for evictions. They have additionally enhanced patrols, to ensure criminals do not take advantage of partial closure of courts to commit crimes.
- All the justice sector institutions have scaled down their normal operations and adopted sanitizing and hand washing protocols in their respective premises. They have also maintained lean staff to offer essential services and deal with urgent matters including responding to public enquiries (except Prisons because it would compromise security).
The committee was established to monitor the Coronavirus situation and advise the NCAJ.
Members are drawn from the Judiciary, Office of the Attorney General, Police, Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), Kenya Prisons Service, Law Society of Kenya (LSK), Probation and Aftercare Service (PACS) and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) among others.
Stakeholders and members of the public are urged to remain understanding and cooperative during these challenging and extraordinary times. NCAJ will review the status and regularly update the nation, as appropriate.