Police Blamed for Hindering Access to Justice

Gerald Chirwa "communities must have access to justice" Gerald Chirwa "communities must have access to justice"

Some Traditional Leaders in Mzimba have blamed police officers for what they term is blocking access to justice by demanding bribes from suspects to be granted bail.

The chiefs made the assertions Tuesday in Mzimba when the National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE Public Trust) engaged them engaged on how communities can assess justice without being victimized.

Group Village head man Kapokolo Kumwenda said that they are often asked to pay hefty sums to the police to have their relatives released, a malpractice he said is common among junior police officers.

"When some of our subjects are found on the wrong side of the law, we are told to pay money. This is in spite the fact that we always told police bail is free," wondered GVH Kapokolo Kumwenda.

Kumwenda also complained of the act of keeping suspects for long on remand before taking them to court.

“This is also denying justice to the suspects, how can one stay on remand in prison for months without being taken to court? To make it worse, later on such suspects end up being released on grounds of lack of evidence," he said.

But Station officer for Mzimba police Horace Chabuka could not deny or accept the allegations leveled against the police saying such malpractices might be happening without the knowledge of top officers.

"Sometimes people might be paying for bail without the knowledge of top officers. We encourage the community to notify us if any police officer is demanding money to process bail papers for a suspect," said Chabuka.

Responding to queries that at times suspects are kept on remand for long periods, Chabuka said this might be due to a number of factors such as investigations or work load at the courts.

However, Chabuka implored the traditional leaders to ensure that they deal with petty cases right in their communities.

"Some cases can be settled right in the villages like theft of a chicken. It’s a mockery to bring such a case to the police, the issue of land wrangles can also be solved by you traditional leaders," said Chabuka.

NICE Civic Education officer for Mzimba and Kasungu Gerald Chirwa said the trust is orienting traditional leaders on access to justice to ensure that they take similar messages to their communities.

"As NICE we are implementing the 'Chilungamo project which among other things entails that communities have access to justice. So, we thought it wise to orient the traditional leaders for them to be aware of the various laws in the penal code and what constitutes an offence and how offences are prosecuted under the law," said Chirwa.

The 'Chilungamo' program is being funded by the European Union.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 12/10/2022

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