Judiciary Expands Coverage of Plea Bargain System

1514 Views Masaka, Uganda

In short
The system allows an accused person to plead guilty to an offense in exchange for a lesser sentence. The procedure also enables an accused person to negotiate for a lesser offense or to be turned into a prosecution witness against other accused persons.

The Judiciary is expanding coverage of the plea bargain concept, a judicial arrangement that seeks to reduce case backlog and decongest prisons.

The system allows an accused person to plead guilty to an offense in exchange for a lesser sentence. The procedure also enables an accused person to negotiate for a lesser offense or to be turned into a prosecution witness against other accused persons.

The procedure can be initiated orally or in writing by the accused person or the prosecution at any stage of a case before the sentence is passed, and plea bargain agreements are reviewed and approved by a judge or magistrate.

The concept has been extended to several parts of the country. On Monday, a team of judicial officers led by Principle Judge Yorokamu Bamwine visited Masaka Prison to assess the effectiveness of the new justice concept. The visit was also used to sensitive inmates  on how to benefit from the system. 

At least 3000 people have so far benefited from Plea Bargain since its introduction in Ugandan judicial system.

Justice Bamwine said that the number of people who have benefited from plea bargain is still small because many inmates did not understand the concept. He however hastens to add that the campaign has been intensified to ensure that more people on remand take advantage of it.
 
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A report on the performance of the High Court divisions and circuits during the year 2016 indicates that 46,731 cases were brought forward from 2015 while 31,584 new cases were registered in 2016. However, only 19,567 were completed through the system.

Meanwhile several inmates from Masaka expressed hope in the concept saying that they had been on remand for more than two years while others said that investigations into their cases had dragged on for so long.   There are at least 400 cases waiting to trial this year at Masaka High Court.

But Mike Chibita, the Director of Public Prosecution said Plea bargaining can drastically reduce case backlog noting that the absence of prosecutors and judicial officers often slows down the operation of the court system.
 
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About the author

Edward Bindhe
Bindhe prides himself on being a part of the society he writes about. He believes there is no way a journalist can understand his society unless it considers him a part of it. This is why he is dedicated to investigating the challenges of the "little person."

Bindhe says, "My work reflects the Uganda Radio Network unique approach to news." Not many Ugandan journalists would consider or even notice the re-emergence of Water Hyacinth on a lake. Bindhe does.

Truant children will attract Bindhe's attention until he gets to the bottom of their truancy: poverty and the need to work to earn bread for their families. These are the kinds of stories Bindhe is often after.

Edward Bindhe is the Masaka URN bureau chief. Rakai, Lwengo, Lyantonde, Kalangala, Mpigi, Kalungu, Bukomansimbi and Sembabule districts fall under his docket. He has been a URN staff member since 2009.

A Mass Communication graduate from Uganda Christian University, Bindhe started practising journalism in 2008 as a reporter for Radio Buddu in Masaka district.