The High Court has allowed police officers to impose instant fines on motorists for minor offences.
Justice John Mativo yesterday said the Traffic (Minor Offences) rules were necessitated by the need to curb corruption in the traffic department of the police service, speed up cases and bring sanity on roads.
“A task force comprising various stakeholders recommended the drafting of the rules,” Justice Mativo said.
“This court hoists high the need to combat corruption, restore sanity and observe the law on our roads.”
He said to some extent, the rules are aimed at achieving a legitimate purpose and public good.
The court added that public interest favours safety, law and order on Kenya's roads.
The case, filed by Kenya National Union of Co-operatives employees, sought to have the rules nullified and police stopped from applying them. They said imposing such fines is the work of courts.
According to the co-op workers, the regulations restricted access to justice, denied the “offenders” the due process of the law and the benefits of a fair trial.
“Imposing instant fines without affording a road user the opportunity to be heard offends natural justice. Individuals do not get a fair public trial before competent courts established under the Constitution,” the petitioners argued.
They added that by mandating the police to arrest, charge, take plea, admit to bail, prosecute, try, take plea in mitigation, sentence and collect fines from suspects, the Transport Cabinet Secretary had allowed police officers to be judges.
The judge, however, said it would be pointless to have a person desiring to plead guilty be compelled to attend court only to do the same.
“Besides, if well managed and the payment of fines is automated, it can eliminate corruption and serve a legitimate purpose,” Justice Mativo said.
He added the rules allow the suspected traffic offenders the choice of not pleading guilty upon being served with the notice.
Should one deny the offence, the judge said, the offender is admitted to bail and would have his day in court.
He added that instant fines can prevent minor cases reaching court, saving time and money.