R. v. Mponda (Child Criminal Review Case No. 8 of 2017)

Three minor girls, victims of human trafficking who the defendant lured in with promises of working in a restaurant, but instead sent to work at a bar, appealed their case. When the work conditions turned out to be exploitative, the appellants reported the defendant to the police. The case was appealed to the High Court on the basis that: (i) the case file did not go through the standard process whereby a case is registered in the Criminal Registry then distributed to a Magistrate by a Chief Resident Magistrate, and (ii) the magistrate did not follow proper procedure for the child witnesses’ testimony. In concluding that a proper lower court be assigned to re-hear the matter, the High Court underscored the importance of following legal procedure designed to protect the rights of vulnerable child witnesses. The High Court pointed out a number of procedural protocols, such as ensuring that the child witnesses did not come into direct contact with the accused, making provision for the witness to be accompanied by a supportive figure in court, and considering the possibility of a pre-recorded interview of a child witness as evidence. The court noted that a court competent in handling child witnesses must re-hear the matter, as causing witnesses to endure repeat trials as a result of the failure to follow proper judicial procedure is akin to repeat victimization of such witnesses.



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