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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Diversion Training – Kanengo Police Station

During our first year in Malawi we developed a training programme around the principles of diversion and restorative justice. Diversion can be defined as the channelling of prima facie cases away from the formal criminal justice system with or without conditions.  It places the victim firmly at the centre of the decision making process and by so doing seeks to restore harmony to the community within which the offence was committed.

It became apparent to us early on in the project that there were many offences of a minor nature which could be dealt with by police officers at the station level.  In our first year we concentrated on up-skilling officers from the Lilongwe Model Police Station, Area 3.  This led to a greater co-ordination amongst officers with regards the treatment of minor offences, which in turn freed up Magistrates’ time to deal with crimes of a more serious nature.

With the consent of the Commissioner of Police Central Region, Mr Nelson Bophani and Mr Happy Mkandawire, Officer in Charge Prosecutions and Legal Services, we have now expanded our training programme to other stations in the Lilongwe area.  We have collaborated with the Paralegal Advisory Services for this initiative.  In particular special mention and thanks must be given to Mr Alex Nkunika who was a key co-ordinator in putting the workshop together.

It is our intention to target stations whose statistics demonstrate a high incidence of crime.  The first police station we visited in October was the Kanengo Police Station.  The aim of the workshop was to develop a common understanding among all police officers of all the processes involved in diversion.

Workshop participants should now be able to:
  • Understand the concept of restorative justice and specifically diversion
  •  Implement a basic version of diversion in their police station, including a tracking and monitoring system
  • Understand the relevant information that should be taken into account in assessing suitability of diversion
  • Have increased their knowledge of new legislation
As part of the workshop we invited officers from the Lilongwe Model Police Station, Area 3 with whom we have been working with over the past year.  Mrs Fanny Chimbaya and Mr Yotamu Chaonaine (prosecuting officers from Area 3) shared their experiences with the participants about how they use diversion in their daily duties, the obstacles they faced initially and the successes they have witnessed.  Their ability to articulate so eloquently the use of diversion to their colleagues was a real pleasure to witness and a testament to their hard work over the past year to make diversion a reality.

We were delighted that Mr Mkandawire attended the entire workshop.  The presence of such a senior member from within the Malawi Police Services lends a high degree of credibility to the initiatives being undertaken by Irish Rule of Law International.  The support of Mr Mkandawire and the officers we work with from Area 3 Police Station will enable us to expand our programme and to increase access to justice within the criminal justice system.  We will keep you posted on our developments on the diversion programme.

Eithne Lynch, Programme Lawyer with the Malawi project

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