KAMPALA – Justice Jane Frances Abodo has pledged to clean the image of the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions by streamlining the case handling system, fighting corruption and taking services to rural areas.
Speaking after formally assuming office on Wednesday, April 22, Justice Abodo, who replaces Justice Mike Chibita, said amidst staffing challenges, she is ready to do all the best to serve public interest.
“In the short term, we have to look to our internal resources and make good use of the staff we currently have. I would like us to review our current deployments in light of the existing backlog. Where is this backlog? Which Region, which courts, what type of offences? How many people do we have in those areas and courts? What is the complexity of these cases? What talents do we need to deploy? Answers to these questions should inform our internal re-organization and re-deployment strategy in the short term. Next Financial year, I propose that we mobilize resources to recruit at least 60 prosecutors in order to cover all courts and magisterial areas,” she said.
Justice Abodo also pledged to work with the existing staff to deal with sophisticated crime.
“Staff out there, know that there will be re-organization and re-deployments. I would like this exercise to be informed by the needs of our clients, the people and the need to reduce case backlog. We shall work with the Judiciary on this issue. I am happy that my predecessors put in place Specialized Units such as Anti-Corruption, Land Fraud, Gender, Children and Sexual Offences, International Cooperation, International Crimes, Asset Recovery, etc. We have Regional Offices, and 13 Departments. The use of specialized units provides an opportunity for us to develop internal talent with specialty in dealing with complex crimes,” she said.
With the emergence of cyber-crime, Justice Abodo said that she is also proposing that it is high time we get started on developing internal capacity to prosecute these complex crimes.
‘Crimes have not changed. It is the means used to commit these illegal acts that have changed. Criminals today use information and communication technology tools and platforms. We therefore need to start nurturing internal capacity; a specialized skills set among interested or trained prosecutors to deal with offences ranging from illegal cyber payments, illegal electronic transfer or acquisition of funds, terrorist financing, money laundering among others,” she added.
On staff welfare, Justice Abodo urged government to grant a waiver to ODPP prosecutors with regard to payment of PAYE tax.
“Sister agencies such as the police, prisons, and the judiciary are exempted from this tax. The removal of this tax will create Uniformity and equitable treatment of all those involved in this noble duty of ministering justice to the people of Uganda,” she said.
She added that
It is high time government operationalized a Prosecutors Academy.
“The Judiciary has one (the Judicial Training Institute), Parliament (Institute of Parliamentary Studies), Police (several) and Prisons have. The ODPP Directorate for Research, Training and Quality Assurance needs to look into this matter urgently,” she added.
Justice Abodo said that she will work to take Justice to the Rural Areas by prioritizing land related crimes.
“A lot of abuse of our ordinary people is increasingly being perpetuated by uncouth individuals who abuse the legal processes to rob ordinary citizens of their rights to land without following proper procedures and land laws in place. We have a duty to provide access to justice for the most vulnerable in our society. Most land crimes tend to be criminalized, dressed in the cloak of trespass. This must be stamped out! Guidelines will need to be developed to provide guidance to our prosecutors,” she said.
She also pledged to Streamline Registry File Management and Complaints Handling System.
“Why should a file or a court document take days or weeks from the day it is received in the Registry before it is received by a respective officer? How should we streamline the receipt and handling of complaints? What needs to be done? I really need us to put our minds together to address this issue. I will also take off time and meet with registry staff and understand their work,” she said.
Justice Abodo said said that she would reduce case back log by initially weeding out minor offences
” Guidelines for Prosecutors:
It is now good practice for many prosecution authorities all over the world to set detailed and comprehensive procedures, standards, protocols and guides for prosecutors. This is to give direction on the exercise of various powers under their ambit. Such documents are meant to be organic, dynamic, and frequently updated in response to case law or legislations or to the changes in Criminal Justice procedures.”
Justice Abodo pledged to Finalize the ODPP Bill.
“Twenty five years down the road, an Act to give effect to article 120 of the Constitution has not yet been actualized. If one looks at Chapter 7 of the Constitution in totality, Parliament has exercised its legislative powers as conferred to it under Article 91 of our Constitution, to make laws to operationalize all the Articles in this section (Articles 98 to 125). It has made laws with respect to election of a president, challenging a presidential election, qualifications, tenure, and the National Planning Authority Act, 2002. It is high time a bill to operationalize Article 120 is finalized. Article 120 does not for instance provide for the tenure of the DPP, his/her removal, the staffing of the ODPP, the management and control of prosecutors in related institutions,” she added.
Justice Abodo joined the ODPP as a pupil State Attorney and rose to the rank of Senior Assistant DPP. She headed the Anti-Corruption Department for 8 years and successfully handled very high profile corruption related cases including the pension case of 88 billion Uganda Shilling 3, against Jimmy Lwamafa and others. In 2015, she was recognized by the Uganda Law Society as the best female prosecutor of the year. SI- e left an exceptional record when she crossed over to the Judiciary in March 2018.