According to criminal lawyer Mwihaki Igoro of Nairobi, doctors act as expert witnesses in criminal law litigation.
As the doctors’ strike enters its 91st day, the impact has extended to the judicial system as doctors’ skills are missing in establishing psychological fitness of suspects awaiting trial.
She told the Nation: “We need doctors to verify the age of an accused person if a minor or an adult lest the charge is wrong. In criminal cases like murder, rape, defilement and manslaughter, a government doctor needs to verify the mental status of the accused person”.
There is a legal provision for a medical assessment for all accused persons in Kenya. A plea without a certificate from a psychologist is not valid. In murder cases, a doctor helps in post-mortem as an expert witness.
“Currently, where a doctor cannot be found to make the mental status judgement on a suspect, we have a lot of miscellaneous applications by investigating officers pleading for more time to detain the suspects. Some have been released,” the lawyer said.
A case in Moyale has stalled because the law enforcers cannot tell whether the accused is a minor or not; the accused said he is 15, a figure they doubted and a confusion that the doctor would have clarified.
A case in Huruma in Nairobi has also stagnated with a man accused of murder still in remand awaiting a psychiatrist’s report.
The investigators had to file a request for more time as they wait for the medics, a move that denies the accused his rights.
The legal system is dependent on the running of public hospitals since it is where assault victims go first for assessment.
Medics are also called to court to testify in cases that involve murder.
The government pathologist is always consulted on post-mortem issues in cases law enforcers cannot rule as homicide or any other cause that is not criminal.