Providing Legal Awareness Through Mock Trials

Providing Legal Awareness Through Mock Trials

“Inmates in Naivasha Prison came out in their numbers to witness the enactment of a case that is still awaiting an appeal.”

Mock trials are used throughout the legal world to provide an experiential learning opportunity for students and professionals who want to gain insight and expertise in the courtroom.

For our Paralegals and Law Students - who are prisoners and prison staff - they are an excellent opportunity to practice their legal skills and advocacy, empowering them to speak up for themselves and those they might represent one day. They build confidence, develop critical thinking and bring their newly-acquired legal knowledge to life.

Mock trials also provide prisoners with perhaps their first look at a courtroom, what might be expected of them when they stand trial or make an appeal, and how a Judge might respond to their case. For them, this is an experience that could change the direction of their life. With no-one else to represent them, it may be the only legal support they receive in an over-stretched and unfamiliar justice system.

In Partnership with the University of London

In 2018 10 of our students - prisoners and prison staff across Kenya and Uganda - completed their Bachelor of Law Degrees (LLB) via the distance learning programme at the University of London (UoL) as part of our Justice Changemaker Programme. Recently, some of these students together with the APP trained auxiliary paralegals organized mock trials at Kamiti, Naivasha and Lang’ata prisons in Kenya. The mock trials were facilitated by both APP UoL Tutors and Legal Aid Officers.

The cases featured included a sexual offence case, a robbery case and a murder case. Each case was relevant to a particular prison as they related to the general offences of the respective prison population.

Kamiti Maximum Prison

At Kamiti, the case being enacted was a robbery case.

This case belonged to one of the inmates held on remand, still waiting for his trial process to begin. When he’d approached the paralegals for help, it was suggested that his case was used as an example to demonstrate to the rest of the prison population how to handle their cases, especially for those who are still undergoing their trial process.

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The activity brought together 165 inmates from the general prison population and 10 inmates from the remand section. The main message of the day was how inmates can represent themselves in front of a Judge or Magistrate during their trial process or on appeal.

Philip Mueke, APP LLB graduate, acted as the Judge and Nahashon Mutua, an inmate at the prison, acted as the offender. Both the defender and the state had lawyers representation in the trial.

You have a right to any information the prosecution wants to use against you in court,” Grace Njeri, an APP tutor tells the inmates in attendance.

When in front of the judge, avoid open ended questions,” explained Brenda Ambani, APP Law Tutor.

Also attending was Morris Kaberia, APP Legal Aid Assistant Officer, who was released after his sentence was overturned last September. He emphasised to inmates the need to put their pride aside and plead with the judge in the best way possible during their mitigation in court.

At the end of the case, those in attendance were advised to visit the prison legal aid clinic in case they needed any help regarding their own cases. The floor was then opened to questions.

Naivasha Maximum Prison

Inmates in Naivasha Prison came out in their numbers to witness the enactment of a case that is awaiting an appeal. The case in question belonged to one Tobias Omukuti Lukoye an inmate, paralegal and APP law student. The paralegals had spent two weeks preparing for the mock trial and the turnout of 220 inmates proved that their hard work was not in vain. The case of Tobias is considered very relevant to the situation in Naivasha Prison where a large number of inmates in the facility are held for defilement.

Eliud Naibei, a paralegal and inmate at the facility, took to the stage as the Magistrate. The team  brought on some members of the drama club who acted as extras during the presentation. Tobias represented himself, questioning the witnesses and disputing the evidence that had been used against him.

Hamisi Mzari, APP Legal Aid Officer, was able to explain the procedure, “When you are defending yourself in a defilement case, you should not take to questioning the victim; more so when he/she is a minor.”

Hamisi further explained that defilement cases are often challenging because the judges are tied by the law to give the maximum sentence of life when it comes to such cases. He therefore advised the inmates to have strong and honest mitigation factors.

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With Tobias having questioned all the witnesses of the defense team, he took to the stand and was questioned by the defense attorney. Eliud “the Magistrate” took all the points made into consideration. He went ahead to give a life sentence to Tobias saying he had failed to prove that he was not guilty of the accusations leveled against him.

During questioning one inmate asked, “Does resentencing really send people back to prison for life?”.

Hamisi advised the inmates.“Do not go for resentencing before you exhaust your appeals.  If you decide, ‘it’s time to go for the resentencing’, make sure you visit the APP paralegal clinic to get free assistance from the paralegals who will train you on how to defend yourself.”

The activities of the day came to a close after 3 hours with the Officer in Charge thanking the team for their work in order to help the inmates.

Lang’ata Women’s Prison

Having successfully organized mock trials at Kamiti and Naivasha prisons, APP’s team went on to organise a similar activity at Lang’ata Women’s Prison, where they had another opportunity to put their skills to work.

72 inmates from the remand section attended the session. A team of 6 paralegals and 3 UoL students took the stage to enact a murder case belonging to one of the inmates who is currently waiting to go to court whilst at Machakos Women’s Prison.  

The accused claims that she was not responsible for the murder of her children and that her mother in-law was the one responsible. While the case was being enacted it came to light that the investigating officer did not carry out an active investigation at the scene of crime and therefore had not provided adequate evidence to the court.

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Both the defense team and the prosecutors rested their case after putting up a very spirited fight and the presiding “Judge”- Pauline, who most described as very tough - gave an innocent verdict.

Kathy Brown, a lecturer at the University of West England who has been working with APP for the last 3 years pointed out that since the last time she was involved, she has seen an improvement in the confidence of the team of paralegals.

Make Justice Work!

Our team of prison-paralegals, law students, legal aid officers and tutors work hard to provide legal services and training for those who are already behind bars. Mock trials offer our paralegals and students the experiential learning that they need to grow in confidence and skill. Their example and growing expertise provide inmates with the chance to see the justice system at work and have their voices heard. That could make the difference between a life or death sentence, and many years separation from their families.

Join us and become a changemaker, putting the power of the law into the hands of those who need it most. Find out how you can support our work.