Chief Justice David Maraga on Monday raised concern over the high number of poor people who are arrested and jailed, compared to rich offenders.
Mr Maraga said the number of poor in conflict with the law was “alarmingly disproportionate to that of the well-to-do.”
He added that many of the poor offenders find themselves in trouble for fairly minor offences such as lack of business licences, being drunk and disorderly and creating disturbances.
The CJ also lamented that there was a disturbingly low rate of successful prosecution of serious offences with, for example, only five per cent of sexual offences attracting a guilty verdict while offences such as organised crime and capital offences have the highest rate of acquittals and withdrawals.
“This obviously means that along the way, freedom is procured at the expense of justice. This is something that controverts the very essence of our existence as the custodians of justice,” he said.
Mr Maraga was speaking when he launched the Committee on Criminal Justice Reforms at the Supreme Court on Monday.
The National Committee on the Administration of Justice will, among other duties, review the sector and give recommendations that will drive the necessary reforms in the criminal justice system.
The committee, chaired by High Court Judge Grace Ngenye has members from state and non-state actors. It has members from the Judiciary, police, the prosecution, prisons, the probation and the Children’s Department.
Justice Maraga noted the entire justice system has systemic, structural and agency challenges requiring urgent attention.
Present during the occasion were DCJ Philomena Mwilu, Attorney-General Githu Muigai, Council of Governors vice-chair Anne Waiguru and judges, among other guests.
Mr Maraga said the existing legal framework is not sensitive to the needs of the youth and that was why many young people find themselves in conflict with the law in their bid to socialise and earn a living.
He said 75 per cent of pre-trial detainees in the prisons are between the ages of 18 and 35 years.
The CJ said that a study by the Judiciary revealed that more children are remanded in prisons than in Children’s Remand Homes, and that their cases take inordinately longer periods to resolve than is allowable in the law.
“On the other hand, conditions of detention were found to be inappropriate or unfavourable for special interest groups such as persons living with disabilities, expectant and nursing mothers, people with terminal diseases, elderly persons, intersex people and others,” he said.
The Supreme Court president said the committee will assist in aligning the criminal justice system with new thinking that is influencing the sector in many other jurisdictions around the world.
Prof Muigai promised to draft necessary laws and amendments. The committee is expected to present its report by December.