A Ugandan high court judge, David Batema has received a nod from the United States (US) professor of law from Pepperdine University, Jim Gash, for disposing off 98 cases within three days using the plea bargain program.
Gash, while speaking during a plea bargain conference at Kabira Country Club, Bukoto, applauded Justice Batema for being able to conclude the cases within a short time.
"For the three days we were in Fort Portal, Batema together with our team of lawyers and students, were able to complete 98 cases in a record three days," he said.
Speaking to the New Vision, Gash said that in the US ,a case on plea bargain takes a minimum of three weeks to be concluded.
Led by Justice Mike DiReda of Utah district court, the judges and lawyers from the US staged a mock plea bargain session to demonstrate the process Batema went through to have all the 98 suspects plead guilty and agree to the sentences meted out by the judge.
Explaining the process, Gash said that the prosecutors made a proposal to the suspects, they agreed on a sentence, signed an agreement, and notified the judge about it and a ruling was made, all in three days.
Justice Batema is among the first judges to introduce the use of plea bargain in courts when it was launched in 2014. He first employed it in solving Juvenile cases.
A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case between the state and a suspect whereby the suspect agrees to plead guilty for a lesser sentence.
Unlike a normal criminal trial where a judge is expected to handle 25 cases per month, through a plea bargain, a judge can hear and dispose off a case within 11 minutes.
"A plea bargain has already made a tremendous adjustment in reduction of case backlog while at the same time promoting reconciliation amongst victims, complainants, and the accused persons," Stephen Kavuma, the deputy Chief justice said.
He was addressing the various stakeholders who had come to attend the conference under the theme 'plea bargaining, Justice for all'.
He said that the program has taken root and possesses a great potential to improve on the landscape for criminal justice in Uganda.
Mike Chibita, the Director of Public prosecutions (DPP) said that during the four day training session for the Ugandan prosecutors, prisoners and lawyers, which was conducted by the US team, in the districts of Bushenyi, Fort Portal and Mbarara, so many prisoners bought the idea and willingly enrolled for the program.