Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) supplement
By Owen Wagabaza
Recently, High Court judge Wilson Masalu Musene handed a married man 10 years in prison for raping a 60-year-old woman fit to be his grandmother. The sentence handed to Stephen Kato seemed too lenient, given that a convicted rapist is liable to a maximum penalty of death by hanging in the strict interpretation of the law. However, Kato's case was different. He pleaded guilty instead of going through a trial, thus saving court's time. Kato's case typifies the judiciary's new "plea bargain" initiative. Plea bargaining is a negotiated agreement between prosecution and an accused person represented by a lawyer.
Once a deal is struck, the accused person is brought before a judge to plead guilty to the charges against him or her in exchange for a lesser sentence. The judiciary says the initiative promotes reconciliation in society. Initiated in 2014, it was introduced amid a report that Uganda had more than 38,000 inmates instead of the recommended 15,000, making its prisons the most congested in East Africa.
More so, the 2015 report into the case census found that there were 114,512 cases pending in all courts. During the pilot period, the High Court disposed of 1,500 cases in a short time and recently, while opening the new law year 2018 at the high court in Kampala in January this year, Chief Justice Bart Katureebe said about 20% of the pending criminal trials have been settled through plea bargaining.
And beneficiaries have hailed it for being cheap with a high case clearance rate of 95% per session. A product of the Justice Law and Order Sector, the programme was introduced with an overall objective of enhancing the efficiency of the criminal justice system. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THIS STORY