Murder suspects will no longer be required to undergo mental examinations before they can stand trial.
In a landmark ruling, High Court Judge Grace Nzioka said “it is not a provision in the legal statutes or in the Constitution that murder suspects be subjected to mental assessment before they can answer ch arges”.
However, Justice Nzioka said suspects can choose to be mentally assessed before they plead to a murder charge.
The current practice is that all indicted murder suspects are first mentally examined to establish their fitness for trial.
“There is no requirement to have murder suspects examined mentally before they can plead to charges,” ruled Justice Nzioka.
She added that the current practice clogs the trial and contributes to case backlogs in courts.
The judge made the ruling in a case where a police officer is accused of killing a man in Mathare, Starehe sub-county, Nairobi, on November 12, 2017.
The officer, Msuya Ngolo Lewis, had objected to being remanded for 10 days to allow a mental assessment to be carried out before he could plead to the charge.
His lawyer, Danstan Omari, had said: “It is a violation of rights for murder suspects to be compelled to take mental tests. It should be optional.”
The DPP, through State prosecutor Wangui Gichuhi, on October 25, sought to have Mr Ngolo remanded for 10 days so the officer could undergo a mental test.
Following Justice Nzioka’s ruling, the officer was expected to plead to a murder charge on Friday this week.
But Mr Omari has opposed the officer’s pleading to the charge.
Justice Nzioka gave prosecutor Solomon Naulikha three days to respond to the application.
She declined an application by Mr Naulikha to have the suspect remanded in prison, saying “he has not pleaded to the charge and therefore is not a property of the court”.
She ordered that he remain at the Kilimani Police Station until he pleads to the charge.