The Justice sector is a chain interlinking various players who interrelate and co-relate at different levels. These players who are the Judiciary, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution(ODPP), The Probation Department, The Prisons and aftercare Service, the Children’s department, the LSK and other interested non-governmental agencies all work around each other and continuously interact at various levels in the justice chain. With all this interaction a coordinated approach is sine quo non in ensuring a unified journey towards facilitation and administering access to justice. This is where the National Council on the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) comes in as a visionary statutory organ. It is a platform with a diverse composition giving voice to all the major actors in the justice chain as well as creating a chamber of accountability and peer review. The NCAJ recognizes the principle independence for its membership and promotes it as it embraces constructive and coordinated interdependence among them.
The NCAJ constituted by high level members, with the authority and power to make decisions relating to the administration of justice headed by the Council where the Chief Justice of the Kenyan Judiciary sits. The council then channels its mandate through the technical committee which implements the decisions of the Council. The Technical Committee is constituted of nominees of the Council who work through Various Special Working Groups, Committees and Taskforces. It is through these committees that the NCAJ has been able to actualise its vision and mandate. These Committees are : The Bail and Bond Implementation Taskforce, established to oversee the implementation of the Bail and Bond Policy Guidelines; The Traffic Committee: established to oversee the implementation of the traffic rules; The Taskforce on Children Matters :established examine, assess, review and give recommendations on operative policy and legal regime affecting the Child; The Committee on Sexual Offences: established to oversee matters related to the actualisation of the broad objectives of the Sexual Offences Act; The Special Working Committee on CUCs: oversees and coordinates the activities of CUCs on behalf of the technical committee and the Criminal Justice Reform (NCCJR) with the overall objective of spearheading the comprehensive review and reform of Kenya’s entire criminal justice system, and overseeing the full implementation of the findings and recommendations of the Criminal Justice System in Kenya.
As an umbrella that brings together the various justice actors the NCAJ adopted a community based problem solving mechanism to wit the Court Users Committees (CUCs). Court Users Committees were initiated in 2011 as an informal set up where the justice sector players who interact with the Court on a daily basis would sit down and discuss issues pertaining to and not limited to administration of justice; access to justice and expeditious delivery of justice. The CUC have grown over the years to be present in all court stations and are pegged as performance indicator for Judicial Officers. The mandate of CUC is to have quarterly meetings and activities where initiatives geared towards delivery of justice are steered. CUCs further ensure that the voices of all justice sector players are heard and issues are identified from the various areas for policy formulation and direction by the NCAJ Council. Through this initiative, a lot of justice sector improvements has been achieved. This includes close collaboration between the Judiciary, the DPP, the AGs, Probation Department, Children’s department, Prisons, LSK among other non-state actors. Consequently, this has contributed to a reactionary approach in advancing the justice sector for instance through a reduction in backlog: building of more court facilities, Children Holding Areas, Prison and cells; policy formulation for the sector and increased capacity. Additionally, there has been mutual understanding on unified vision and goals infrastructural improvements, capital facilitation through the Judiciary and its partners and provisions of equipment
Finally, imagine a society where each day a litigant gets up, goes to court and there is a waiting bay provided for them to rest as they wait for their matter to be called out. Imagine a court where a file is admitted on time and the prisoner is presented to court in time; the prosecutor proceeds litigate procedurally as the Judicial officer is available and well facilitated to adjudicate over the matter. Imagine the prisoner being swiftly issued with a bail/bond facility where applicable and there are photocopiers to ensure the proceedings are printed and provided them. Imagine a situation where the witness in the case is able to come to court when called upon as transport is provided and in case of a vulnerable witness there is a special witness box installed in each court. Imagine a justice system that advances access to justice and its administration seamlessly and effortless. That is the vision of NCAJ and in its ‘devolved nature CUCs’ where advocates can be party to.
published in the Law Society of Kenya(LSK) the advocate March 2018