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Judiciary Committee proposes changes to guidelines on capital offences

Judiciary Sentencing Committee in a meeting. (PHOTO/Courtesy)

KAMPALA – The Sentencing Committee on August 15 and 16 held meetings with a major objective to make proposals on how to improve guidelines for capital offences.

The Committee is looking at making amendments of the Constitutional Sentencing Guidelines for the Courts of Judicature Practice Directions No.8 of 2013.

The meetings which were presided over by the Principal Judge, Dr Yorokamu Bamwine, who doubles as the Chairperson of Sentencing Committee, were held at the Judiciary Headquarters in Kampala.

One of the Committee’s objectives is to monitor performance in the implementation of Sentencing Guidelines with the view to inform proposals for improving the Sentencing process.

The 2013 Practice Direction introduced Sentencing Guidelines in Uganda’s Criminal Justice System.

The Guidelines were to promote uniformity and consistency in approach when sentencing. They also, among others, introduced start points and sentence ranges for offences.

The 2013 Guidelines emphasised deducting period spent on remand from sentence imposed, victim and community impact statements to promote victim and community participation in the sentencing process. This includes the sentence indication from the accused and prosecution after submissions by defence and prosecution after conviction before court sentences.

According to the Principal Judge, the proposals have been informed by sentencing trends in Uganda since the inception of legal notice No.8/2013.

Key among the proposals that the Committee has made is introducing Sentencing Brackets. The Brackets cluster offences in categories of Serious, Medium and less serious. Each of these Brackets have starting points and sentencing ranges.

Another feature is guidance on Plea Bargaining which will equally follow the set brackets.

The Committee has also proposed standard aggravating and mitigating factors that cut across all offences.

Also in place is an eight step simple guide on how to use the Guidelines. Some of the steps include, Determining the offence category, determining the sentencing range, adjusting the start point according to aggravating and mitigating factors, among others.

These proposals have been informed by sentencing trends and practices within East Africa and the Commonwealth. The Committee has also been benchmarking with other countries such as Britain that have sentencing guidelines.

When the Committee is done with making the proposals, they will be subjected to a consultation process and thereafter be sent to the Rules Committee for consideration before being taken to and first Parliamentary Counsel for drafting.

Similar proposals for Sentencing Guidelines for Magistrates’ courts were made last year and are before the Rules Committee for consideration.

The Committee will reconvene on August 28, 2019, to make further deliberations.

The 17-member committee is comprised of the Principal Judge as Chairperson and the following as members.

The Director of Public Prosecution, Justice Mike Chibita; Justice Eldard Mwangusya (Supreme Court); Justice Elizabeth Musoke (Court of Appeal); Judicial Training Institute Executive Director, Damalie Lwanga; Judge Gadenya Paul Wolimbwa (represent High Court); Head of Criminal Division, and the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Judiciary (represented by the Under Secretary Ms Maureen Kasande represents the public and Mr Livingstone Ssewanyana represents Civil Society.

Others are Ms Norah Matovu represents Uganda Law Society, Director Community Service, Mr Robert Munanura – represents Commissioner General of Prisons, the Chief Registrar, President UJOA, Deputy Registrar Criminal Division, Hon. Jacob Oboth Oboth, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Legal Committee and Judiciary Technical Advisor, Mr Andrew Khaukha, the head of the Sentencing Guidelines and Plea Bargaining Secretariat.

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