Disposal of Exhibits in Kenyan Criminal Proceedings

The handling and disposal of exhibits in Kenyan criminal proceedings is a crucial aspect of ensuring the integrity of the legal process. Proper management of exhibits, particularly perishable, dangerous, noxious, or bulky items, is essential to preserve evidence, facilitate the prosecution’s case, and uphold the rights of the accused.

This article provides an overview of the procedures for managing and disposing of exhibits in Kenyan criminal cases.

Exhibits in Criminal Cases

Exhibits in criminal cases can encompass a wide range of items, including documents, physical objects, and even perishable or dangerous materials. Effective management and disposal of exhibits are vital to maintaining the chain of custody and preserving the evidence.

Handling of Perishable or Dangerous Exhibits

When a criminal charge involves perishable, dangerous, noxious, or bulky exhibits, it is imperative to produce these items in court at the first appearance or soon thereafter. Such exhibits can include foodstuffs, chemicals, flammable petroleum products, and livestock. Producing these exhibits in court serves multiple purposes:

  • Preservation of Evidence: Prompt production in court helps preserve the condition and integrity of perishable items, ensuring that they remain viable evidence throughout the legal process.
  • Legal Requirement: Failure to produce exhibits that are the subject matter of the charge can be detrimental to the prosecution’s case. Without the exhibits, the prosecution may struggle to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. This principle was exemplified in the case of John Bosco Kariuki v R, where the accused was acquitted because the alleged stolen motor vehicle was not produced at trial.

Use of Photographs as Evidence

In cases where it is not feasible to retain certain exhibits, the law allows for the use of photographic evidence as a substitute. This approach ensures that the court has a visual record of the exhibit, even if the original item cannot be retained. An example of this is the case of John Mbugua v R, where a motor vehicle held at a police station as an exhibit was released, and photographic evidence was presented.


The proper management and disposal of exhibits in Kenyan criminal proceedings are critical to upholding the principles of justice, fairness, and the rule of law. Exhibits, especially those that are perishable, dangerous, or noxious, must be handled promptly and produced in court to preserve the evidence and protect the rights of the accused.

When it is not possible to retain exhibits, the use of photographic evidence serves as a viable alternative, ensuring that the court has a clear record of the evidence in question. These practices are essential in maintaining the integrity of the criminal justice system and ensuring a fair and just legal process for all parties involved.