Why Maraga’s bid to reform justice system has flopped

Tuesday June 16 2020

Chief Justice David Maraga. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By Joseph Wangui

A team formed by Chief Justice David Maraga three years ago to spearhead a comprehensive review and reform of the criminal justice system is yet to complete its work six months to his retirement.

The National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) Committee on Criminal Justice Reform (NCCJR) was gazetted by the CJ in June 2017 and was to serve until December 31, 2020.

This means the CJ will leave office without having achieved his desired reforms in the criminal justice system, which is clogged by cases involving petty offences.

At the end of its term, the committee was expected to have prepared a final report detailing how far it had fulfilled its mandate of steering reviews of Kenya's penal laws including laws that criminalise petty offences such as being drunk and disorderly and touting.

The multi-agency team was also expected to identity legal, institutional, administrative and financial barriers that impede the efficient functioning of the criminal justice system, leading to violation of hu-man rights by security agents.

But since the team is yet to deliver on its mandate, the CJ has extended its term of office for a further two years with effect from January this year.


With the leadership of High Court judge Grace Ngenye, the committee was tasked with overseeing the full implementation of the findings and recommendations of a report dubbed the "Criminal Justice System in Kenya: An Audit”.

The audit report, which was released in March 2017, recommended a review of the criminal penal code as police were using some laws to conduct arbitrary arrests, harass public, torture and detain illegally.

The report also raised red flag on unaccounted arrests leading to enforced disappearances, death of suspects in police cells, degrading treatment of suspects when in police custody and unfair or irregular bond terms and fines.

Justice Maraga wanted the committee to examine all aspects of criminal justice reforms including on investigations, policing, prosecution, probation, incarceration and re-entry.

He had also tasked the team to establish and design mechanisms to ensure the criminal justice system operates in a manner consistent and compliant with the provisions of the Constitution, 2010.

Further, the committee was expected to review laws and policies that criminalise petty offences and make recommendations on their declassification and reclassification.

The much-awaited reforms, which would have marked the end of the increasing violation of human rights by police, would have been part of Mr Maraga achievements during his tenure as head of Judici-ary.

The membership of the committee is drawn from various stakeholders of criminal justice system in-cluding the Judiciary, police service, Law Society of Kenya, Office of Director of Public Prosecution, At-torney General, Kenya Prison Service and Probation and Aftercare Service.

Others include Department of Children Service, Witness Protection Agency, Independent Policing Oversight Authority, Kenya Human Rights Commission and Commission on Administrative Justice.