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Activities at Mombasa courts in near halt as staff contract Covid-19

Thursday June 25 2020
law

Mombasa Law Courts where services have been greatly scaled down after 11 employees tested positive for Covid-19. Only urgent matters are currently being handled. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By BRIAN OCHARO

Activities at the Mombasa Law Courts have been crippled as only one judge is now set to handle urgent cases after 11 staff tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

In a new guideline issued after deliberations by the court users committee this week, it was directed that only urgent matters will be handled by Presiding Judge Eric Ogola.

Handling of the urgent matters has been scaled down to three days every week.

"There will be no open court proceedings until July 3, to be reviewed at the lapse of the intervening period," the committee said.

VIRTUAL MEETING

The virtual meeting was attended by Chief Justice David Maraga, all judicial officers within the Mombasa station, office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and that of Attorney-General, members of Mombasa Law Society, National Police Service and the Prisons Department

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Justice Maraga ordered for the closure of the court last week following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease at the station where 11 members including judicial officers and staff contracted Covid-19.

This is after the Ministry of Health directed the closure of the court premises and sent 118 members, identified as contact persons, on self-quarantine for a period of 14 days to curb the spread of the virus.

The court users committee that sat after the directive by MoH also resolved that all matters scheduled for hearing or mention during this period be given dates once normal court registry operations resume unless any official communication is issued to parties directing otherwise.

AUTOMATIC EXTENSION

Also, cases with temporary orders set to expire during this time when open court sessions are suspended shall be automatically extended.

This means that the status quo would remain as had been given by court until directed otherwise.

Due to limited staff available at the moment, one central registry will be opened for the Judicial Review and Constitutional Division and the High Court and Commercial Division to ensure services are not completely grounded.

The central registry, the committee said, will only receive and register urgent matters from litigants.

"Such matters will be placed before the presiding judge on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of every week during this period," the committee said.

GIVE DIRECTIONS

The judicial officer, the committee said, will give directions on the hearing of such matters in consultation with other judges concerned.

Due to the current situation, litigants and advocates have been encouraged to file only urgent matters.

The positive coronavirus cases were reported at a time when the courthouse was preparing to fully re-open to the public and to upscale its activities.

It had put in place a raft of measures that would have ensured that it was fully operational to speed up the dispensation of Justice.

Anyone attending court would be required to wear a face mask and sanitise at the designated areas before accessing courtrooms.

Also, it had been recommended that only bonded witnesses were to be allowed into courtrooms and that suspects in prison would conduct their cases through video link.

All staff working under the station are also required to undergo Covid-19 tests, be trained on preventive measures and on how to deal with stigmatisation.

The committee will sit again on June 30 to review the guidelines and the Covid-19 situation at the station.

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