Last Friday, our student and paralegal Wilson Kinyua, an inmate at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, Kenya, was invited to deliver a short speech at the Milimani Law Courts - Criminal Section Court Users Committee (CUC).
The committee is composed of key players/users of the court including the magistrates, judges, lawyers etc. Inmates at Kamiti petitioned to be included as they too see themselves as key players. They were successful. John Muthuri, our Legal Aid Manager had the opportunity to interview Wilson Kinyua about the day.
Read the interview below:
What is the main purpose of the CUC?
"The CUC enhances the feedback system in the justice chain. It is able to hear from all the key players in the chain and recommend change and improvement in service delivery. The objective of the CUC is to enhance access to justice and make it a reality to all."
What did it mean for you to present to the CUC?
"For me it was a milestone because initially we (inmates) felt left out in decision making and the transformation of the judiciary. We felt that being the partakers of the services offered by the judiciary and having experience in the hands of the justice chain, we possess exclusive information that would be useful for the judiciary reform. So that we might have a meaningful transformation in the judiciary, the judiciary must consider our feelings and ideas. It was a good step and we hope we will continue being part of the CUC."
What challenges, issues and opportunities were you able to address with the CUC?
"The CUC meeting held on the 30th June at Milimani Court focused on the beginning of matters at the magistrate courts level. We felt as per the constitution of Kenya, the accused persons should have legal representation at this point at the expense of the state. Although the constitution provides for this, it has not yet happened. We feel if accused individuals do not get legal representation at this point, then their cases could be distorted; leaving little or nothing to salvage at later states. Legal representation should be in place since it is a constitutional right.
Secondly, the new constitution provided that prosecution be conducted by the office of the Department of Public Prosecution. As it is today, cases continue to be prosecuted by the police at the magistrate courts. There is a difference in motivation between the police and the DPP; the police will want to win the case at whatever cost, whilst the DPP is in the business of assisting the courts to do justice.
Lastly, there is a system that can salvage the miscarriage of justice after exhausting the trial process. In other jurisdiction e.g. in the US, there are Criminal Review Commissions which handles the miscarriage of justice. For instance, if a witness did not give his/her testimony during the trial process. We do not have such a mechanism in Kenya.
I also urged the magistrate to appreciate and apply jurisprudence by higher courts in relation to the sentencing of capital offenders."
How did you get to be invited to present at the CUC?
"The first Milimani CUC meeting was held here in Kamiti. We the inmates requested to be involved in it. That is why when I was given the opportunity to address the CUC I mentioned that to be an integral part of it. They were amazed to find out that there are people in prison who can give a presentation and engage them meaningfully."
Were you able to present the concerns of the wider prison community?
"No. I couldn't capture everything due to the short time allocated to me."
What do you hope will be the long-term outcomes of you being able to take part in this context?
"I expect judicial transformation resulting from the input of those who use the services of the judiciary. It is only inmates who have an unbiased truth on the experience of being in the hands of the judiciary. I also expect that our participation in the transformation of the judiciary will complement the efforts of the Power of Mercy Committee and the Prison Service rehabilitation programs."