Seventeen robbery with violence suspects are on the loose, and neither the National Police Service (NPS) nor the Prisons Department wants to take responsibility for their escape, a week on.
This has complicated the search, as the two services, which fall under the Interior ministry, engage in buck-passing, complicating the issuing of orders to recapture the remandees.
The remandees escaped when the vehicle transporting them from the Thika Law Courts to the Industrial Area Remand Prison in Nairobi on Friday, July 5, stalled in traffic in Kamukunji.
NPS sources say that the search for the suspected capital offenders has been hampered by the Prisons Department’s failure to give them adequate information.
“The police cannot go out there and search for people they do not know, or even where they come from. They keep telling the police that they should get the records from the police stations where they were taken after their arrest. They have just failed to collaborate,” a chief inspector of police said.
The stalemate raises questions as to which authority in the criminal justice system should take charge of inmates who have not been sentenced.
Section 9 of the Prisons Act says: “While in charge of prisoners for the purpose of conveying any person to or from a prison, or for the purpose of apprehending any prisoner who may have escaped from a prison, or who may have escaped while being conveyed to or from a prison, or for the purpose of preventing the rescue of any persons in custody or an attack on a prison, every prison officer shall have all the powers, protection and privileges of a police officer”.
But since the suspects’ escape, the NPS and the correctional Prisons Department have each been waiting for the other to act, with those familiar with the progress of the matter saying that by the time we went to press, the NPS had not even been furnished with the suspects’ mugshots.
Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai maintained that the remandees were under the custody of the Prisons Department, but said that the NPS would procedurally search for them and rearrest them, since escaping from lawful custody is an offence.
But the Prisons Department Spokesperson Dickson Mwakazi, in a text sent after several calls, said: “That’s a police matter.”