Chief Justice, Dr Willy Mutunga, issued new directions to guide courts across the country in the handling of traffic cases yesterday as a measure to curb corruption in the courts.
The CJ, through a statement, directed that all payment of traffic fines be done in an open court and maintained that traffic offenders should not be locked up in cells.
Currently, traffic offenders are detained in court cells as their fines and bails get paid by third parties in commercial banks.
“Traffic courts shall process the payment of traffic fines in open court,” Dr Mutunga said in the statement.
“No accused persons in traffic cases will be locked up in cells without first being granted time, place and adequate facilities to pay fines and bail,” he added.
The new directives will take effect immediately and Dr Mutunga urged Kenyans to help enforce them by reporting all magistrates who violate them.
RECOMMENDATIONS OF SPECIAL WORKING GROUP ON TRAFFIC
Willy Mutunga is also expected to meet the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Joseph Boinnet, today to discuss the adoption of a broader range of new traffic measures recommended by the Special Working Group on Traffic, an inter-departmental technical team drawn from key stakeholders under the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ).
The team, which included representatives from the Judiciary, National Police Service, National Transportation Safety Authority (NTSA) and Kenya Association of Motorists among others had come up with the following recommendations;
The recommendations followed grave public concern about arbitrary arrests and detention of alleged traffic offenders and offending motor vehicles under the Traffic Act and related legislation, negative systemic inefficiencies in the handling of traffic matters, and the existence of “courts” outside of the Court. The recommendations are as follows:
- In compliance with Article 49(2) of the Constitution, all suspected traffic offenders in respect of offences punishable by a fine only or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months shall not be held in police custody.
- In compliance with Article 49(1) (h) of the Constitution all other suspected traffic offenders shall be expeditiously released on reasonable bail or bond conditions pending charge or trial, unless there are compelling reasons certified as such by a Court Order.
- Once a suspected traffic offender has been cited, he or she shall be issued with a notification to attend court (NTAC) on a convenient date within seven (7) days or Court Summons whichever is applicable as per the resolutions passed by the National Council on the Administration of Justice.
- The Notice shall state clearly the charges preferred and also indicate the maximum penalty for each.
- The cited traffic offender will be required to attend court on the date and time indicated in the NTAC to take plea.
- If an offender, having been issued with a NTAC/ Court Summons does not attend court, upon application by the prosecution, a Warrant of Arrest shall issue and the police will be expected to execute the same. Immediately after apprehension, the relevant traffic file will be mentioned before the traffic court and the failure to honour the NTAC/ Court Summons may be adduced towards aggravating factors.
- If after three (3) months, the Warrant of Arrest remains unexecuted, the prosecutor will notify the Court and unless cause is shown, the prosecution will be expected to apply for the termination of the matter under section 87(a) of the Criminal Procedure Code pending execution of the Warrant of Arrest.
- If, upon issuance of the NTAC, the traffic offender opts to plead guilty in writing under Section 117 of the Traffic Act Cap. 403, s/he must fully comply with the proviso thereto; that is, they must remit to court (through the deposit account provided by the Judiciary’s Directorate of Finance) the maximum amount payable for the offence(s) cited.
- Before plea is taken, the Magistrate will ensure that any cash bail collected by the Police from the traffic offender(s) is available in Court.