AMPLIFYING THE CONVERSATION ON STATE REGULATED OFFENCES
LRF employs the paralegal approach to deliver its programmes across the country. Paralegals are stationed in different communities including prisons. Among the prisons benefiting from this initiative is the Nairobi Remand and Allocation Prison (NRAP) where LRF started operating back in 2003 and provides legal aid to inmates, Human Rights Monitoring and Capacity enhancement. The prison is served by various courts in Nairobi and neighbouring counties.
To address the hurdles facing the inmates, LRF innovated a dialogue system dubbed Access to Justice Committees whose aim was to bring together stakeholders in the Justice system. LRF supported the concept till it was adopted in statute and funded by the government and is now referred to as Court Users Committee (CUC). However, resources are not sufficient hence LRF continues to support holding of CUCs’ meetings across the country besides building their capacity on certain thematic gaps.
Over the years, CUCs have had profound successes in unlocking the challenges affecting the system. In its work, LRF identified a need to form a specialised CUC to address specific sectors within the courts. Nairobi County Government, just like the other devolved units have laws that guide its operations. Residents flouting these laws are taken to the City Court for hearing, thus making the court unique. The officers serving City Court, which is under the jurisdiction of the Milimani Court were members of the Milimani CUC till 2019.
At NRAP, LRF identified the issues raised by the inmates which directly touched on how the city court functioned in delivery of justice. Thereafter, LRF approached the Court’s leadership in conversations to share the justice experiences and complaints, which led to a number of interventions. Some of these included capacity building of the enforcement officers by training them on Human Rights, besides various laws governing their work so as to ease the plight of those who find themselves in contravention of the Nairobi County laws, amongst other logistical support measures. Further, LRF was allocated space to provide legal aid for litigants attending the court and also interacted with those held in the court cells. Feedback from the courts indicated an improvement in capacity to self-represent for those who interacted with the courts for the first time. The desk is still operational and is run by LRFs community paralegals.
To enhance dialogue for this court, LRF supported the process of setting up an independent Special Nairobi City Court User Committee hence delinking itself from the Milimani CUC in 2019. The Milimani Court has a broad mandate and could not adequately cover the unique sector the Nairobi City Court deals with. As a result of this autonomy, the City Court now has more latitude in handling its administrative matters, including a better coordinated special CUC focusing on its niche in handling State Regulated Offences.