Strikes Stalled Plea Bargain Progress in 2017 – Report

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In short
Plea Bargaining is the process where an accused person agrees with a prosecutor to plead guilty to an offence in exchange for a lesser sentence. The procedure also enables an accused person to negotiate for a lesser offence or to be turned into a prosecution witness against other accused persons.

A series of strikes by judicial officers are blamed for slowing down targets in clearing cases through plea bargain, according to a report on the performance of the high court over the last one year.

Plea Bargaining is the process where an accused person agrees with a prosecutor to plead guilty to an offence in exchange for a lesser sentence. The procedure also enables an accused person to negotiate for a lesser offence or to be turned into a prosecution witness against other accused persons.

The procedure which is believed to be quick and cheap to run by the courts helps to decongest prisons, reduce case backlog, and promote reconciliation between accused persons and the victims.

Since its pilot in the High Court in Kampala, in mid-2014, slightly more than 6,000 cases have been cleared through the system, according to a report on the performance of the High Court in 2017.

Principal Judge Yorokamu Bamwine says that the number of cases resolved through plea bargain would by now have hit the 10,000-mark if it were not for the industrial action by the prosecutors and judges that crippled the courts, rendering most of them inactive for a better part of last year.

"We have some more 1,000 cases pending clearance. The rate at which plea bargaining is decongesting prisons makes it a clear game-changer" Bamwine said in his report.

On Mediation, the report indicates that the Commercial Court alone settled 130 cases through mediation in 2017. It Shows that mediation failed in 254 and 249 went back into the system on account of non-attendance by parties.

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that allows parties to a dispute find a quick solution with the assistance of a neutral third party, without going through the costly and lengthy court process.

Last year, through their umbrella body, Uganda Association of Prosecutors (UAP), the Prosecutors are demanding for the minimum pay of the lowest officer to be Shillings 9 million and Shillings 40 million for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

However, during the opening of the 20th Annual Judges Conference on Monday, President Yoweri Museveni promised to increase the pay of judicial officers alongside scientists.

"On the issue of salaries, we are now in a position to do something for you provided we break down this wastage and we shall save 1000 billion Shillings and the target by the government is that our scientists and government lawyers should get comparable salaries with best practices in the region at least," He said.

 

About the author

Alex Otto
“Journalism that changes lives is my goal,” Alex Otto has said on more than one occasion. That is his career’s guiding principle. Has been since he was a radio journalist in the northern Ugandan town of Gulu in 2009.

Otto passionately believes his journalism should bring to the fore the voices of the voiceless like the shooting victims of Apaa. Otto tries in his journalism to ask tough questions to those in positions of authority.

Based in the Kampala bureau, Otto is especially interested in covering agriculture, politics, education, human rights, crime, environment and business. He has reported intensively on the post-conflict situation in northern Uganda.

A URN staff member since 2014, Otto previously worked with The Observer Newspaper from 2012 to 2013 and later the Institute for War and Peace Reporting IWPR based in Gulu.

He was the URN Gulu bureau chief 2014-2016.