"If there are no magistrates, you can come in and remand a suspect for 10 days then you later produce them before court."
KAMPALA - In a bid to improve the administration of justice in Uganda, the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe has granted 29 senior prisons officers judicial powers to remand and grant suspects bail.
According to Katureebe, the 29 officers at the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Prisons (ASPs) whom he swore-in on Monday at the High Court in Kampala, will have powers to remand and grant bail to suspects in emergence situations.
"If there are no magistrates, you can come in and remand a suspect for 10 days then you later produce them before court," the Chief Justice directed during the swearing-in ceremony.
He, however, noted that the officers should not conduct trials and convict people according to what crime they have committed.
"Senior prisons officers fit in the concept of Justice Law and order Sector (JLOS). Administration of justice is not a matter of Judges and Magistrates only," Katureebe observed.
He noted that the way a prisoner is being handled in prison after being remanded is a matter of justice, adding that prisoners should be held in accordance with the law.
He also advised the officers, who took oath to read, internalize and understand their roles in administration of justice ad take them seriously. "Work for the administration of justice in what capacity you have been appointed in".
The Prisons Spokesperson, Frank Baine, explained that any prison staff at the rank of ASP and above will be fit to adjudicate cases that are within their organisation.
But the powers do not include handling suspects on capital offences, hearing cases and passing judgments, he clarified. This is the first time prisons officers have been granted powers to exercise judicial powers.
Baine said the prisons officers will be allowed to remand suspects while in courts of law for a period of one week when a magistrate is absent. He said they were appointed under Justice law and order plan.
According to Senior Superintendent of Prisons, Aliyo Naatukunda, who led the team that was sworn in, the officers who are heads and deputy heads of different prisons facilities will also preside over disciplinary proceedings of all inmates and prisons staff.
She said the officers will also have powers to arrest criminals like the police and produce them in court in a shortest time possible.
Naatukunda also stated that the officers will have powers to take affidavits, administer oath and affirmations. She disclosed that the crime rates at Prisons facilities were low.
The sworn-in officers include; Evelyn Lanyero, Charles Muligo, Richard Mukonge, Norah Mwenje, Noel Namatovu, Harriet Ayelango, Ezra Dratre, Lillian Muzamiru, Henry Oryema, Alfred Haruna, Angelica Tumushabe, and Pascal Kyesimira.
Others are; Francis Byaruhanga, Christopher Opio, Bosco Obura, Jane Ikoru, Catherine Okware, Thomas Ekweru, Cissy Namusisi, Henry Kidega, Simon Makawo, Geoffrey Agona, Fred Amodo, Evans Abio, Henry Tumwesigye, Lydia Nekesa, Jackson Kwihangana, Winnie Alum and Moses Odong.
"We shall well and truly exercise judicial functions entrusted in us and will do all right of manner of people in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda as established by without fear or favour and affection or ill-will," each of the officers pledged reading from a written commitment.
The officers also committed themselves to be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Republic of Uganda in a bid to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.