A charge is a formal written accusation of an offense drawn up either by a police officer or magistrate, signed by a magistrate to be used in a magistrate’s court as a basis for a trial or proceeding.
Article 28(3) (b) of the Constitution provides that every person who is charged with a criminal offense shall be informed immediately in a language that the person understands, of the nature of the offense. This article is usually read together with article 28 (12) with states that, except for contempt of court, no person shall be convicted of a criminal offense unless the offense is defined and the penalty for it prescribed by law.
Sections 85 to 88 of the Magistrates Court Act, Cap 16 provide for; the form, content of a charge, joinder of persons, and duplicity of charges. Section 42(2) and 132 provide for the effects of a defective charge and alteration or amendment of a charge.
A charge describes the offenses shortly in an ordinary language, avoiding the use of technical terms, and it shall contain a reference to a section of the law creating the offense. It shall also state the particulars of the offense allegedly committed, description of the accused persons including particulars of the place, date, and time when the offense was committed.
Note: As a general rule, it is not proper for the court to try several persons together on charges of committing specific offenses that have nothing to do with each other.