NAKASONGOLA – The Principal Judge, Dr Flavian Zeija, has called for the cooperation of all stakeholders in the criminal justice system to enable the quick access to justice initiative to thrive.
The call was made on Thursday in remarks delivered on his behalf by Judge Jane Okuo, during the launch of the Plea Bargaining Prison Project at Nakasongola Government Prison.
“Each institution represented here is doing a lot of work. From the Judges who will hear and conclude the cases right to the prosecutors who peruse the files and defence attorneys representing the accused persons. Without everyone playing their part, including the inmates, the project will not achieve its gains,” Dr Zeija’s statement read, in part.
He asked for the cooperation of the accused persons because the initiative benefits them the most.
At Nakasongola Prison, 120 inmates had enrolled for Plea Bargaining with many more asking to be considered for the initiative.
The Principal Judge cautioned against abuse of the initiative. “We, however, emphasize that this is for strictly for people who know that they are guilty. We do understand that when accused persons spend long on remand, they get tempted to enroll for such initiative. There is a session coming and you will have your day in court.”
Nakasongola has 1,406 inmates of which 997 are convicts and 409 are remands. Out of the total number of remands, 313 are facing capital charges while 96 are for petty charges.
SP Evans Rock Abio, the in charge of Nakasongola Prison said some inmates complained of being left out of the plea bargaining programme. This he said affected the morale of those who want to enroll.
He further commended the efforts of the justice system to deliver just in spite of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The representative of the Commissioner General of Prisons, Asinjah Apollo Baker, commended the initiative for helping to decongest prisons.
He added that the Covid-19 pandemic had brought several challenges including social distancing, production of inmates to courts and hearing of appeals and bail applications. He urged the Judiciary to come up with more interventions to address the new challenges.
The inmates in their memorandum decried the delays in Court of Appeal sessions. They equally decried torture at the hands various security agencies before being arraigned in courts and remanded.
The Director of Public Prosecution, Justice Jane Frances Abodo, said the ODPP does not condone torture and that it is against human rights. Adding that even the evidence got through such means is inadmissible in court.
She explained to the inmates the role of the ODPP in the criminal justice system especially in as far as plea bargains are concerned. Saying that before sentence is negotiated, the ODPP has put in consideration the plight of the victim as well as the inmates themselves.
On his part, Justice Oyuko Anthony Ojok from the Criminal Division committed to handle the files brought before him in a timely manner.
The Judiciary Technical Advisor, Mr Andrew Khaukha, also referred to as the Plea Bargaining “midwife”, said from Nakasongola that the Prison Camp will head to Gulu and then Mbarara. It is anticipated that at least 1,000 cases will be concluded.
Notably present at the Nakasongola launch was the Ag. Registrar High Court, Mary Ikit, Deputy Registrar in Charge of Criminal Division, Mary Kaitesi, Assistant Registrar and Public Relations Officer, Jameson Karemani and Nakasongola Magistrate Grade I, Edgar Tibayeita Tusiime.
Other participants were a team of state attorneys from the ODPP led by the Plea Bargaining focal person, Margaret Nakigudde as well defense lawyers.