Feb 7, 2023

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Pre-trial detention is a chronic problem, judge says in bail row

A judge has criticized the criminal justice system, saying that the arbitrary use of pre-trial detention undermines due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

< p class=" align--justify">Judge John Mativo said Tuesday in Mombasa that pre-trial detention has become a chronic problem, noting that suspects spend an average of four years in detention before their cases are brought to trial.

“Delays in court proceedings remain the bane of our justice system. That needs to change,” the judge said, adding that he’s observed this worrying trend during his visits to prisons.

“There’s no reason why a case as it stands it should take the applicant in the lower court that long before it begins and there is no justification for putting a person in prison for that long before conviction. I believe this is an appropriate case for this court to review the orders to refuse bail,” the judge said as he awarded Mr Wesley Rerimio bail of Sh50,000. His request for bail was denied by the lower court in March after prosecutors argued that he was at risk of absconding because “he quit his job and was on the run”.

A delicate balancing act

< p class="align--justify">Judge Mativo said judges must perform a delicate balancing act to apply reasonable conditions while deciding bail requests. The judge added that the problem is not with the law as such, but with its interpretation, adding that the law provides enough protection against abusive use of pre-trial detention.

While noting that the lower court should have heard the suspect, Judge Mativo said it was the judge’s duty to protect the suspects’ rights. Court documents show Mr Rerimois was indicted on October 21 last year and his case was scheduled to be heard on September 9. Mr Rerimois has appeared in court 13 times.

He moved to the High Court in May to ask the judge to release him on bail. Prosecutors said the suspect changed his phone number after being released on bail at the police station and has no known address.