Public prosecutors have been challenged to exercise diligence in their work as they represent society and public interest in criminal cases.
Kenya Wildlife Service acting Director General, Prof. Charles Musyoki gave the challenge at the close of a course for public prosecutors at the Kenya School of Government. Prof. Musyoki asked the prosecutors to always take into account both the rights of individuals and the need for an effective criminal justice system.
The acting DG said the public prosecutors’ course is an integral part of training and skills development to ensure that KWS prosecutors maintain the desired standards of practice. He said the value of the course will be reflected in specific outcomes, such as properly worked out case files, prosecution-guided investigations, use of supporting legislation, proper prosecution and ultimately, deterrence of wildlife offenders.
Prof. Musyoki said KWS Prosecution Unit was established under the Investigations Act in 2010, noting initially, the unit was staffed by three Prosecutors and three prosecution assistants handling wildlife crime cases countrywide. KWS decided to expand the unit last year, taking into account the increased threats to wildlife by criminal syndicates, he said. Thirteen prosecution officers and nine prosecution assistants were appointed, he said, adding it was therefore imperative for them to undergo a public prosecutors’ course.
He expressed gratitude to AWF for funding the course, as well as Kenya School of Government for scheduling the course at this critical time; when there is urgent need to safeguard the country’s natural resources. He appreciated instructors from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Space for Giants and African Wildlife Foundation for their commendable work in imparting professional skills to the newly appointed prosecutors.
The graduands are now faced with the challenging task of significantly increasing the numbers of convictions. This, he said, would serve as a deterrent once criminals equated wildlife-related crimes with stiff penalties. He promised that the prosecutors would be gazetted to enable them to fully discharge their responsibilities.
Dr. Philip Muruthi of African Wildlife Foundation who represented his organization at the graduation ceremony congratulated the graduands for their sterling performance during the training. He said wildlife prosecutors’ success lies in convicting criminals brought before court. He advised the course participants to network to lighten their workload, because crime is extremely versatile, more so that related to wildlife.
Dr. Muruthi recalled his organization’s collaboration with former KWS Director Julius Kipng’etich in which they would bring prosecution officers to KWS to observe best practices, and suggested a resumption of the collaboration. “We need to explore possibilities of empowering our prosecution officers to middle and upper level management,” he said.
In his remarks, KWS acting Deputy Director for Security, Mr. Robert Muasya noted that KWS’ prosecution history was rather dim because “we were not doing this ourselves from the outset”. He saidHhhHe said this resulted in the organization losing a high number of cases arising from many issues, for instance, defective charge sheets. He noted that KWS started a Prosecution Unit a few years back with gazetted prosecutors and it was gratifying to see the graduands armed with specialized knowledge now. He said with closer collaboration with the DCI and the ODPP, cases would not get thrown out of court on the basis of technicalities.
He said expectations in KWS are high and cautioned the graduands that there are people watching from without, e.g. a program called ‘Eyes in court,’ which specifically keeps tabs on how wildlife crimes are handled in court. While their intentions may be ignoble, their existence should motivate the prosecutors to keener collaboration and determination in their work, he cautioned.
A total of 19 officers completed the course, including two from Uganda