Maraga suspends open court sessions in Mombasa over Covid-19

Friday June 19 2020

A security guard screens a man as he enters the Mombasa Law Courts. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Eleven staff members of the Judiciary in Mombasa have tested positive for Covid-19 over the past 24 hours. 

Chief Justice David Maraga said Friday that the infected persons include Judicial officers and registry staff.

"Their primary contacts within the courts totalling 118 officers have been identified and must now go into self-quarantine with immediate effect," CJ Maraga said. 

The affected courts are the main court building, the city court and the Tononoka children's court. 

Mr Maraga suspended all open court sessions in the coastal city until further notice. 

"We shall, however, as much as possible, endeavor to offer online and other virtual services to court users," the CJ said. 


The suspension of the court activities comes a week after a KCB Bank outlet at the Mombasa Law Courts was shut to curb spread of the disease. 

On Friday, the Ministry of Health announced that Mombasa has a total of 1,197 Covid-19 cases.

“Over the last 24 hours, 11 members of staff at our courts in Mombasa, out of a complement of 150 officers have tested positive for Covid-19,” Chief Justice David Maraga said in a statement last evening.

The affected, the CJ said, include both judicial officers and registry staff.

The confirmation of the cases, and the placing of 118 other officers who had contacts with the 11 in quarantine, has all but paralysed operations in the courts.

“In view of these developments, we have suspended all open court activities in Mombasa until further notice. We shall, however, as much as possible, endeavour to offer online and other virtual services to court users,” the Chief Justice said.

The 11 cases were among the 22 positive cases detected in Mombasa Friday and announced by the Ministry of Health.

The closure of the courts comes just days after the Judiciary started scaling up physical court operations countrywide on Monday.

The resumption of open court services had started after about three months of little activity, mostly restricted to virtual courts.

Ahead of the reopening of courts on Monday, Mombasa Chief Magistrate Evans Makori had told the media that they would take at least two weeks to fully reopen to the public.

This is after a committee comprising of sanitary, civil and criminal court staff had recommended that the station take at least 14 days to open to the public.

“The committee made a raft of recommendations that need to be met before we resume full operations and open the court to the public,” Mr Makori said at the time.

It was recommended that all staff undergo a Covid-19 test. The 11 cases were detected following this mandatory testing.

Other recommendations included having all parties attending the court wear masks and sanitise at the designated areas before accessing the court rooms.

The courts were to also conduct two or three hearings per day depending on the technicality and complexity of the cases.

“Cases involving many witnesses and defence counsels will be scheduled depending on the complexity of the case and the nature of the evidence to be adduced.

“Courts to pilot video link hearing of cases in open court with witnesses while in custody,” the committee said.

It had further recommended that only bonded witnesses be allowed in court rooms, and that there would be no mentions in open court for accused persons who are out on bond. For accused persons in custody, the mentions were to be done via video link.

These plans have now been scuttled by the detection of the positive cases.

Additional reporting by Walter Menya and Brian Ocharo