The National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) has proposed the establishment of a new police unit to handle criminal cases involving children in the country.
A taskforce of NCAJ chaired by Justice Teresia Matheka proposed a Child Protection Unit (CPU) established within the National Police Service (NPS) to deal with juvenile criminal suspects.
The taskforce has developed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that will guide members of the proposed unit in handling juvenile law offenders under their custody.
The taskforce further recommended that NPS form Police Protection Units (CPUs) in all police stations that will be used to detain juvenile suspects pending prosecution.
“These guidelines are designed to guide Police Officers in their running of the CPUs and service delivery to the Children who end up there,” reads Justice Matheka led taskforce report.
The taskforce chair told a two day NCAJ conference at Serena Beach Hotel, Mombasa that the proposed CPUs will assure safety of child law breakers, currently held alongside adult offenders in police cells.
The proposed CPUs will be a separate facility within police stations that will be manned by trained police officers.
The taskforce further request for the establishment of CPUs in all Police Station to ensure the prioritization, assessment and referring of children according to their needs, “And to this end, the officers will need to work in partnership with the community and other actors in the justice chain.”
The team has also developed a protection and care form that would be used to open files of cases involving children instead of use of ordinary charge sheets.
“This form is already in use. It is the form used to open the file to facilitate the safeguard and monitoring of the welfare issues of the child in contact or in conflict with the law. The form is to be used at the police station. A court may order for a P&C file, and any agency in the child justice chain may request for a P&C file to be opened,” added Justice Matheka, who chaired the taskforce.
The team further established a guideline; Children Court Practice Direction, to aid judicial officers in handling cases of children arraigned before their courts.
However, the taskforce and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) are consulting on different ways a juvenile offender can get a second chance in life instead of prison terms.
“There is a need for identification of programs by each of the Court User Committees to support the diversion of children for the purpose of rehabilitation. The Taskforce hereby makes a request to the Council to support all officers in the justice system to ensure that there is a strengthened diversion framework for children who come into contact with the law,” added the report.
A curriculum and manual training developed to address knowledge, skill and attitude gap among National Police Service, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution, Kenya Prisons Service, Probation and Aftercare Service, the Judiciary, the Department of Children Services among others in the child justice system will be launched in January.
Some of the taskforce recommendations have already been implemented including Wakili Wa Watoto Clubs launched by Chief Justice Martha Koome at Strathmore University to spur law students develop interests in children matters and help strengthen the legal aid program for children in the justice system.
The task force’s terms of reference include among others review and report on the status of children in the Administration of Justice, examine the operative policy and legal regimes as well as the emerging case law to identify the challenges and make appropriate recommendations.