KAMPALA – The Chief Justice, Bart M. Katureebe, on Thursday morning, June 27, officially opened the 5th National Plea Bargaining Conference with a call to advocates to embrace Plea Bargaining and other Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms.
“I urge you to earnestly embrace these initiatives in addition to maintaining the highest levels of professionalism and integrity,” said the Chief Justice.
He encouraged them to join the Judiciary in eradicating case backlog through diligent preparation and presentation of cases in court. “You should take center stage in saving judicial time and resources,” he said.
The Conference was held under the theme, *”Plea Bargaining as a Case Backlog Intervention”.*
Justice Katureebe commended initiatives such as Plea Bargaining and other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution to overcome the huge case backlog and inordinate delays in the disposal of cases.
The Commissioner General of Prisons, Dr Johnson Byabashaija, said Plea Bargaining is the way to go to decongest prisons and reduce case backlog. The programme has been central in changing the shift of the number of convicts being more than those on remand.
In his detailed presentation on the performance of plea bargaining over the years showed that the number of inmates who have benefited from the initiative grows every year.
“The pilot project benefitted 400 inmates in 2014, the following year 717 joined, 2016 1,330…in the last six months 1,268 inmates have had their cases disposed of.”
Justice Gadenya Paul Wolimbwa, the Ag. Executive Director of the Judicial Training Institute said courts emphasize Plea Bargaining because it has been observed that the initiative is one of the “quickest strategies for case completion as the accused and the victim either personally or through their representatives participate in coming up with a befitting sentence to an accused person who has pleaded guilty”.
The Principal Judge, Dr. Yorokamu Bamwine noted with concern that there is still insufficient knowledge on plea bargaining procedures and its benefits.
“Plea Bargaining works best when all the participants take the issue of administering justice for the victim and the offender very seriously. Just like equity follows the law, Plea Bargains also follow the law.”
He called for more sensitization of all actors involved in the process for the success of the initiative.
Participants were later taken through practical Plea Bargaining case preparation and adjudication sessions as well as different perspectives on how to improve the efficacy of Plea Bargaining in Uganda.
The Conference was held by the Judiciary in partnership with the Justice Law and Order Sector and Pepperdine University, USA.
It attracted a cross-section of Judicial Officers, heads of JLOS institutions, Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, advocates and law students.