Over 4800 inmates serving jail sentences less than six months have been released from custody by the High Court.
The exercise is part of the measures the government has adopted to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus disease whose confirmed cases hit 81 on Wednesday, April 1.
The Chief Justice (CJ) David Maraga said the High Court had in the last two weeks received files of inmates who are petty offenders jailed for periods of less than six months and those remaining jail term of less than six months.
“The files were presented to the High Court for review. This has resulted in the release of 4800 inmates significantly helping to decongest the prisons. The exercise is continuing,” CJ Maraga said.
Immediately the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Kenya, the CJ directed that no prisoners or remandees will be presented to court.
Further, Maraga urged the police to avoid arbitrary arrests and unnecessary detention of suspects for minor offences like loitering and causing disturbance.
Maraga’s directive, which has substantially change how police officers handle prisoners, followed a meeting of the National Council for the Administration of Justice (NCAJ) on March 15.
“With regard to new arrests, all cases except serious ones will be dealt with at the police stations in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Inspector General of Police,” CJ Maraga said.
All the institutions in the criminal justice system have come up with a raft of measures to avoid congestion.
The Office of Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) also said they would only prosecute serious cases of murder, robbery with violence, terrorism and trafficking.
The DPP Noordin Haji directed that the prosecution of other cases remains suspended and that his staff will only focus on the serious cases.
In a communication to the staff, DPP said other new arrests apart from those mentioned above, will be dealt with at the police stations in accordance with guidelines to be issued by the Inspector General of Police.
The Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai has also directed officers to release suspects of minor offenses on reasonable bail terms to ensure there is no congestion.
He said all other suspects arrested will be released on cash bail, police bond or issued with Notice to Attend Court (NTAC), adding that this could be extended depending on the situation.
The Deputy-Inspector General Edward Mbugua had also on March 27 issued a directive to all police officers enforcing the curfew orders to grant police bonds to detained persons where appropriate.