Judiciary to hold 70 criminal sessions in 2016/17

By Michael Odeng

Uganda has more than 38,000 prisoners instead of the recommended 15,000, which makes its prisons the most congested in the region

Aaaaaaabig 350x210

The Judiciary will this financial year hold 70 criminal sessions across the country to clear 2,800 cases, the Principal Judge, Yorokamu Bamwine has said.

"This financial year, we hope to carry out a total of 70 criminal sessions throughout the country and in each session we shall handle not more than 45 inmates," he told inmates at Mubuku Government Prison Farm.

He made the disclosure on Wednesday during the launch of Plea Bargaining Program at Kasese district. Bamwine was accompanied by the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Charles Eremu Ogwal and Kasese and Fort Portal residential Judge Anthony Oyuku.

According to Bamwine, the judiciary has close to 10,000 prisoners committed for trial across the country yet some prisoners have been on remand for more than 5 years.

He further stated that even if negotiations between a suspect and the state fails, the same evidence will not be used against him or her during trial.

The plea bargaining program seeks to decongest the prisons in the country as a whole. Recent reports suggest that Uganda has more than 38,000 prisoners instead of the recommended 15,000, which makes its prisons the most congested in the region.

Under plea-bargaining, a criminal suspect agrees to plead guilty to a particular charge, in return for either a lenient penalty or some deal from the prosecutor.

According to Bamwine, the programme addresses pressing issues in the Judiciary and reduces case backlog.

He also appealed to prisoners not to commit the offences again if they are released from prison, adding that they should respect the life of other people and property.

Bamwine also appealed to prisoners to respect children after they have been released from prison because they are the future of the nation.

Bamwine called on judicial officers to always deduct periods that convicts spend on remand adding that they must also respect the sentences that have been bargained.

The Deputy Director of Public Prosecution, Charles Eremu Ogwal told prisoners that in the event they are detained for more than 48 hours, their relatives have a right to apply to court for their release.

"The Police is breaking the law by detaining you for more than 48 hours" he said.

According to the residential Judge Anthony Oyuku, plea bargaining ensures that justice is given to prisoners without delay.

"The programme’s judicial officers are to determine your fate without wasting court's time" he said.

The prison commander, Ronald Kalali asked Bamwine to also roll out plea bargaining to the Magistrate's Court, adding that minor cases such as assault should not drag on for long in the courts of law.

According to him, 134 prisoners are awaiting trial at the High Court. The prisons have 434 inmates, with majority being convicts.