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Kenyans urged to embrace plea bargaining

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Kenyans have been asked to embrace the justice system of plea bargaining with a view to reducing case backlog as well as save time and financial resources.

Malindi Resident Judge Stephen Githinji and Kilifi County Head of Prosecution Vivian Kambaga urged accused persons who know they committed the alleged crimes to own up and plead guilty in exchange for lighter sentences.

Speaking at the Malindi Law Courts on day three of the Judiciary’s Plea-Bargaining Week, the officials also urged victims of criminal activities to cooperate in the process of plea bargaining for them to get assured justice as those who plead guilty are usually sentenced and their criminal records kept.

Mr. Justice Githinji said since the plea-bargaining activity started on Tuesday, ten cases had been processed at the Malindi High Court in which accused persons had been given lighter sentences than they would have received had the cases gone to full hearing.

“People charged with murder cases and they know they committed the offences and have expressed willingness to plead guilty to those offences have been engaged in a process called plea bargain whereby the victims have been spoken to by probation, the prosecution and their advocates and a victim-impact assessment report prepared,” he said.

He said since the activity started on Monday ten murder cases had been dispensed with whereby accused persons who pleaded guilty received lighter sentences.

On her part, Ms Kambaga said although the Plea Bargain Service Week was focusing on murder cases, plea bargains are applicable to all cases apart from offences such as defilement and crimes against humanity.

She said Kenyan prosecutors have no power to reduce sentences, but they can negotiate with the accused persons and victims and then recommend to the courts, which have ultimate powers to exercise discretion.

“The courts currently have embraced plea bargaining and, in most cases, the sentence suggested by the prosecution has in many occasions been embraced by the courts, and so we encourage many more people to plea bargain,” she said.

She said the system was beneficial both to the accused persons and the victims in that the accused persons are likely to get lighter sentences while the victims will be sure of getting justice since the accused persons will be convicted.

County Director of Probation Conrad Masinde said that most victims of criminal activities had agreed to plea bargaining after being enlightened on the benefits, adding that in many cases, probation officers reconcile the parties.