The Judiciary has declared November a Children National Service Month in all court stations to fast-track all cases involving children in criminal, civil and those who are victims of crime.
Speaking during the launch of the Service Month at Kilifi Law Courts, President Court of Appeal Justice William Ouko said all Court stations across the Country have been instructed to ensure all children cases pending for more than 6 months are heard and concluded during the service month.
Justice Ouko said that civil cases concerning children will be settled expeditiously through court annexed mediation mechanism.
“The Taskforce on Children Matters headed by Lady Justice Martha Koome has trained Court Users Committee (CUC’s) members in various courts across the country on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms such as plea bargaining and Court Annexed Mediation by partnering with the Mediation Accreditation Committee and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to ensure successful clearance of cases during the service weeks” said Judge Ouko.
Justice Koome who is also the Chairperson of the National Council on Administration of Justice (NCAJ) Special Task Force on Children Matters said that it was the responsibility of all of everyone to protect the children from harm.
“As a Judiciary we will deal with defilement cases in accordance with the provision of the law,” said Justice Koome .
The US State Department of Justice pledged to support the Judiciary in ensuring that children cases are heard and determined expeditiously and in accordance to the Children Act to ensure that those in conflict with the law and victims of crimes are not negatively affected by the judicial processes.
The Department’s representative Ms Tomika Patterson said there is need for the National government to consider fully funding the National Legal Aids Fund to ensure children get the much needed legal support.
Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of Interior Ole Ntutu, said that the Ministry was in the process of establishing a fully functional Child Protection Unit in each Police Station to handle children matters.
Speaking during a similar launch in Eldoret Law Courts, High Court judge Jessie Lesiit called on court officials to embrace de-institutionalization of children to ensure that they receive a normal childhood so that they are not hardened by the justice system.
“The courts are a reflection of the ailments of our society –let us not watch our children come to court for issues we could deal with before the crimes are committed.” She said
Uasin Gishu Deputy County Governor, Daniel Chemno said that the county government had donated a facility for a Children Court in Moibein and was awaiting a magistrate to be posted.
He further promised that his administration will set aside land to put up a child friendly facility in Eldoret.
Uasin Gishu County Probono Lawyers representative Ms Sawe Isiaho on the other hand asked the Judiciary and Parliament to make a kitty for children matters.
“Give children matters a priority by reducing or doing away with DNA costs as well as execution of warrants charges to expedite matters” she pleaded.
The courts commenced the exercise on November 5 and are expected to conclude the hearing of the matters by the end of the Month.