By Hillary Nsambu
Acting Chief Justice Steven Kavuma has urged magistrates to change the negative public perception of the judiciary by avoiding unethical behaviour in executing their duties.
“Any judicial officer that acts contrary to professional expectations and work ethics shall face disciplinary action as provided by the law,” he said.
“At times, the public image of the judiciary is tainted by the conduct of some of our judicial officers who over rely on technicalities instead of the pursuit of substantive justice for the parties that come before them by corrupt tendencies and practices and in addition, the failure to communicate effectively with the people they serve,” Kavuma said.
From left: Justice Vincent Mugabo, President Uganda Judicial officers association; Registrar, Lillian Mwanda; Ag. Chief Justice Stephen Kavuma; Principal Judge, Dr. Yorokamu Bamwine, and Her worship Harriet Ssali (seated) in a group photograph after the official opening of the fifth Magistrates, conference.
He advised the magistrates that to win back community trust and inspire public confidence in the judiciary, they must be willing to break down those barriers, listen to the people and be available at their work stations during all the working hours.
“It is therefore very important for us all to appreciate that we should not sit in lofty places to decide matters that concern the people without due consideration of and the total compliance with their constitutional rights. It is every judicial officer’s responsibilities to portray the judiciary as a user- friendly and the necessary institutions of our republic, without, however, compromising any of the core values of a worthy judiciary.”
Justice Kavuma was addressing magistrates from all over Uganda at their fifth annual conference held at Colline hotel in Mukono Thursday under the theme “Enhancing public confidence in the Judiciary”.
He advised that they must come down from the pedestal of justice to listen to people’s needs which is what every single court case is about; a cry to have a question answered after a fair hearing of the parties to the litigation they handle.
Kavuma assured the magistrates that they, at the helm of the judiciary, are strongly committed to supporting the judicial officers Uganda at all levels to enable them perform better in their day to day work.
“The judiciary is in the advanced stages of reviewing the existing magisterial areas with a view to reducing the distances between the people and the courts.”
“Our goal is to ensure that there is a magisterial area within a radius of 30 to 40kms. This reduced distance will also lower the cost incurred by litigants in accessing the courts. We also intend to provide a chief magistrate for every 500,000, down from the current 930,000 people. This may not be achieved over time but with deliberate efforts coupled with positivity and will-power, it shall be realized within a reasonable time,” he stated.
Earlier, Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine cautioned the magistrates to always conduct themselves in a manner that gives the judiciary its respect and confidence. He added that they must be mindful of the conduct expected of them considering that the way they determine the cases affect the ordinary Ugandans. They must therefore transform the justice system in order to win public confidence.
The president of Uganda Judicial Officers Association (UJOA), Vincent Mugabo pointed out that most magistrate courts face numerous challenges like insufficient infrastructure, unqualified support staff, and inappropriate funding that could help judicial officers improve performance.
The Chief Registrar, Paul Wolimbwa Gadenya, urged the magistrates to always be at their work stations and uphold their core values.