The High cost of justice in Kenya
Kinuthia, Mary-Leah Wanjiru
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The purpose of this study was to look at how poverty is an impediment to access to justice here in Nairobi. The study was guided by the following research questions: What is the concept and rationale behind access to justice? What is the history of access to justice in Kenya? Is poverty an impediment to access to justice for persons living below the poverty line in Nairobi, Kenya? Looking at both past and current legislation relating to access to justice, has there been an improvement in the process of accessing justice for the poor? The research results will help to shed some light on the ways in which poverty acts as a hindrance to access to justice for so many. The research design adopted in the study was a descriptive desk study. The research process involved reading through numerous blog post entries, documents, journals, books and articles that relate to access to justice. A lot of focus was directed towards literature that focused more on developing countries, as their situations are closest to that of Kenya. Key findings revealed that poverty, among other factors is a huge impediment to justice on Kenya. Some of the main factors that were seen to prevent the poor from accessing justice included: lack of information, economic costs, corruption, and overreliance on technical formalities, fear and mistrust, court delays as well as geographical causes. In addition to this, the budgetary restraints on the state counsel were found to have caused a shortage in the amount of legal representation offered by the state, which is a hindrance to access to justice for those who could not afford legal representation. The area of legal aid was also found to be lacking, which furthered the difficulty in accessing justice for the less fortunate in Kenya. Conclusions drawn from the study confirm that poverty is in fact a great impediment to access to justice in Kenya, as it is in many other developing countries around the world, as well as in developed countries, to a lesser degree. Recommendations for the improvement of access to justice for the poor focused mainly on the removal of court fees that hinder some from seeking justice from the court system, using alternative forms of dispute resolution, removal of any ambiguities for the law that bar access to justice as well as putting place legislation that deals with access to justice in conformity with the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Based on the findings of this study, further, more detailed studies are necessary on the influence of poverty on access to justice in Kenya.