Festus Terer is a trailblazer. When he joined the Judiciary three years ago as a magistrate at the Children’s Court, he soon discovered inefficiencies in the established processes.
Cases would often take too long to conclude as parties filed application after application. It was an emotionally draining process, not only for judicial officers but also for children, whether they were in conflict with the law or just caught up in the custody battle between their parents.
The counselling services offered by his employer, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), helped somewhat, but he reasoned if he was to effectively do his work, something had to change.
He co-introduced and incorporated a concept known as Art and Play Therapy in the administration of juvenile justice at Milimani Children’s Court, where he is stationed.
"The concept, he says, involves 'getting down' to the child's level to make them relaxed and, at the same time, win his or her confidence before the child opens up to the court."
The concept, he says, involves ‘getting down’ to the child’s level to make them relaxed and, at the same time, win his or her confidence before the child opens up to the court. The process involves plays and pep talks before the hearing session starts.
This approach has resulted in the speedy resolution of cases involving children in conflict with the law and, in the process, seen him ranked the best-performing magistrate at the Milimani Children’s Court.
In his court, he discourages filing of applications, which he says clogs the Judiciary with case backlog and delays the hearing of the substantive case. Festus talks to parties and convinces them to go directly to the main case because the application they might seek can be addressed in the main matter.
Barely seven months after joining the Judiciary, the JSC nominated him, and he was eventually appointed the deputy chairman of the Co-operative Tribunal, where he served for one year.
The Tribunal was ranked the best in the country in 2021.
That same year, he was nominated for an award by the Law Society of Kenya Nairobi branch for outstanding performance, and earlier this year, his court was ranked as the best court in handling children’s matters in the country.
Last year, Festus became the youngest JSC panellist during the interviews of more than 24,000 applicants for the position of court assistant.
Festus is an active member of the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association and a Tindiret Technical and Vocational College board member in Nandi County.
He uses his free time to visit children’s homes where, together with other magistrates, they donate food, clothing, and other items.