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LETTERS: Let’s abolish cash bail rule for petty crimes

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Letters

Milimani Law Courts
The Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Innocent until proven guilty is perhaps one of the most commonly used phrases among citizens of many democracies worldwide. We try extremely hard to perfect our judicial system in hopes of conforming to this principle, but often, we fail. The cash bail system undermines the equal protection under the law doctrine.

It aims to advance freedom to those who can afford it and deny it to those who can’t; even when the due process mechanism set up to determine your guilt or innocence isn’t completed. At face value, the cash bail system is a process that punishes a cross section of Kenyans for being poor.

The remand jail system -for the most part- is a government operated warehouse for the poor, and money is the ultimate determining factor if or not you are released. There is obviously a case to be made for the need to remand violent suspected offenders in the interest of protecting the public.

While I agree with that principle, majority of remanded suspects are petty non-violent offenders. The cycle of poverty is grossly exacerbated in remanding family breadwinners, primarily because the Kenyan judicial system is severely backlogged.

Therefore, a suspect with no financial means could easily linger in remand jail for months or years before a successful disposition of his case. By the time he gets out -even with an acquittal- he has most likely lost the only means of livelihood he had prior to being arrested. Poverty is thus further propagated via loss of jobs and potential business opportunities, evictions and broken families.

The need to commit more crimes is exponentially heightened as a result. Our judicial system’s dispensation should be uniform because having no money should not determine if you get to spend an extra week in remand or not.It goes against the grain of justice and fair treatment under the law.

It’s an absurd leap of logic to, on one hand, tirelessly strive to create a perfect system that seems fair and just, but on the other hand set parameters purely based on how much a suspect has in their bank account to gain their freedom.A poor person consequently feels that, even though they are innocent until proven guilty, they no longer have the inalienable protections accorded in the constitution.

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Because why is not having cash a precursor to a presumed innocent citizen’s freedom?Remanding petty crime suspects also creates an unnecessary burden to Kenyan taxpayers. It costs money to feed, house, supervise and provide healthcare -among other needs. Unnecessary government expenditures like these clearly adds up.

Lost wages and business opportunities also drains potential Kenya Revenue Authority(KRA)tax collection efforts and further dips the purchasing power of thousands of innocent-until-proven-guilty suspected petty offenders.

They are more productive out, than in remand. It makes a lot more sense to have these suspects out participating in economic projects while their cases make their way through the judicial system. Cash bail is not only an archaic practice, it is also illogical and cruel.

The presumption of innocence notwithstanding, this practice creates collateral damage in children and other family members. Something is fundamentally wrong in our country when the only threshold that determines whether you stay in jail or go home, during a petty crime pre-trial phase, is not your guilt or innocence, your character or your positive contribution to society; it is money. A young man can languish in remand for years due to lack of Sh 10,000 cash bail. Wasting thousands of hours of potential income generation, further education, quality time with one’s children, tax contributions and the overall lost economic productivity. We need to search deep within ourselves to ascertain if that is the kind of society we want to live in.

Because if the thought of an innocent person having their freedom taken away does bring a cringe worthy reaction to you, then so should the cash bail system. In the colonial days, the government would set on a village and indiscriminately imprison every young man of a certain age, in hopes of identifying a culprit. In essence, they presumed everyone guilty, until they weeded out the innocent.

The cash bail system is not only fraught with this utter shameful grim of historical irony, but it puts the government in the direct path of mass production of more poor populations. It is not unusual to see a family turn to loan sharks, or dubious agricultural crop brokers for help in raising funds to free a petty crime suspect; further relegating poor families into immeasurable poverty.

We must break this structures that necessitate these kinds of judicial ‘end-justifies-the-means’ exploitations. Unless in war-time, the need for public safety should never supersede the freedoms of innocent people.

Hezron Karanja, VP Finance (Digital Media), Paramount Pictures International, Washington University School of Law.

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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