CHREAA trains police officers on Malawi Bail Project

Centre for Human Rights Education Advice and Assistance (CHREAA) Wednesday engaged Police Officers from different stations in Blantyre on the Malawi Bail Project (MBP).

Mhango: Imparting knowledge to people who go through criminal justice system

The orientation meeting which was patronized by Police Officers from Limbe, Soche, Blantyre, South Lunzu, Bangwe and Milare Police Stations was conducted at Blantyre Girls Primary School in Ndirande.

According to CHREAA Executive Director, Victor Mhango, MBP is a project that helps vulnerable groups of people access justice through the help of the organization.

He said there are some people who cannot access bail because they do not know they have the right to bail and this is a call to non-governmental organizations like CHREAA to help such people.

CHREAA Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Officer, Siphiwe Malihera, said that a research conducted five years ago showed that 75 percent of the people who go through the criminal justice system are not aware of their right to bail.

“We came up with MBP in order to impart knowledge to the people who go through criminal justice systems so that they are aware of what they are supposed to do when they are arrested in order to secure bail.

“We have a number of activities that are aimed at imparting knowledge of bail issues so that they should be able to secure a bail even in the absence of legal representation,” she said.

Malihera said CHREAA considers the Malawi Police Service as one of their crucial partners since they are the ones who are responsible for arresting the people that CHREAA helps through the MBP.

“CHREAA works hand in hand with the custody department of the police because the department is able to provide them with the opportunity to access the people in police custody. What we are doing is just to sensitize the police on what exactly MBP is all about so that they are aware of what we are doing as CHREAA,” she said.

The Officer said a meeting with police officers is one of the platforms through which CHREAA can learn of the challenges that the police face when it comes to bail issues.

“There are a number of paralegal organizations including CHREAA who patrol police stations with bail educational lessons, so usually there are other police officers who are unaware of what the paralegal organizations do. That is why we decided to take them through what we go there for so that we properly work together,” she highlighted.

According to Malihera, in the year 2016, CHREAA educated more than 30,000 prisoners on remand and managed to secure more than 21,000 bails through the project.

Meanwhile, CHREAA is planning on meeting magistrates and judges because they have received complaints that there is no good relationship between the two parties and this bars offenders from asking for bail in court.

Detective Sergeant Josephy Chilinda from Bangwe Police Station said the meeting with CHREAA was very important as it will help the police to decongest their cells as most prisoners with minor offences will be able to obtain bail.

“Bail is a right and free to any person with minor offences and so we will be able to guide the arrested on how to get a bail at the police stations,” he said.

Chilinda pointed out that they face challenges as police because most people do not know their right to bail and that there is a gap between investigators and officers who are authorized to issue bail.

“The gap makes it hard for us as junior officers to help the arrested obtain bail even when we know there is no evidence to the offence they are being charged with. We therefore ask CHREAA to also civic educate our senior officers so that they can know how to go about the bail issues,” he said.

MBP is a project by CHREAA that seeks to empower prisoners on remand particularly those arrested for minor offenses so that they can apply for bail.

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