Lack of vital ICT gadgets slows cases

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021 00:00 |
A traffic offender Patrick Anasta Orassa virtually takes plea virtually using a police officer’s phone at Milimani Law Courts earlier this week. Photo/PD/CHARLES MATHAI

Lack of equipment to facilitate the virtual hearing of criminal cases is threatening to slow down the wheels of justice in Kenyan courts.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) says absence of vital equipment has led to   dozens of criminal cases postponed repeatedly in recent months.

DPP’s concerns arose when the Sh39 billion fraud case against former Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa came up for hearing yesterday before Senior Principal Magistrate Kenneth Cheruiyot.

The case, which had been scheduled for hearing for three continuous days, failed to take off after it emerged that the ODPP lacked the necessary equipment to enable the proceedings be heard virtually.

“It is true that we do not have the necessary equipment to mount in our office to facilitate the virtual hearing in this case.

We seek the matter to be heard in physical court,” said prosecutor Kennedy Panyako.

Lengthy testimonies

Panyako argued that the cases cannot be heard virtually because of lengthy witness testimonies and voluminous documents tabled by the parties.

Cheruiyot adjourned the matter until June 11 and directed the same to be heard in an open court.

The adjournment of the Echesa case is just one among several other criminal and graft cases which have failed to proceed on grounds that the DPP’s offices lacks the equipment or gadgets to facilitate hearing of cases virtually.

The DPP says the office lacks screens, internet, machines to scan documents and money to facilitate witnesses’ participation in virtual hearings.

Among other cases that  have  stalled include the Sh233 million against Garissa Governor Ali Korane, the corruption case against former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, the murder case against Joseph Irungu alias Jowie and former television anchor Jackie Maribe, the murder case facing Migori Governor Okoth Obado and the Sh971 million National Youth Service (NYS) cases.

Some of the accused persons have also complained about the cost of purchasing data bundles to enable them attend their cases virtually.

In some dire situations, suspects have been forced to borrow mobile phones from police officers to take their pleas due to lack of screens within the courts to facilitate virtual proceedings.

Police stations countrywide also lack equipment to enable accused persons to take their pleas from their cells.

The Anti-Corruption cases hearing have since stalled due to high number of accused persons, represented by multiple advocates who each is required to cross- examine the witnesses and refer to voluminous documents which are produced by prosecution as exhibits against the suspects.

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