Uganda claims criminal justice improvements through better co-ordination

The Principal Judge of Uganda, Justice Yorokamu Bamwine on behalf of the Chief Justice of Uganda, presented a paper at the African Correctional Services Association Biennial Conference in Kampala, Uganda, which suggests there has been vast improvement in the operation of the criminal justice system in Uganda through the implementation of the Justice Law & Order Sector (JLOS) Programme since 1999.

The Justice Law & Order Sector (JLOS), a chain linked programme piloted in Masaka, was aimed at finding low cost solutions to systemic problems in the criminal justice system. Such problems include lengthy delays and loss of court files.

By bringing all stakeholders together, JLOS attempted to reduce the "blame game" whereby each part of the criminal justice system "blames" another part of the chain for the problems experienced. JLOS brings together all the institutions of criminal justice with a common planning, budgeting and institutional framework. In addition at every district parties are encouraged to come together periodically.

Since JLOS was implemented, the Principal Judge said, the following successes have been recorded:

  •  Case disposal has increased from 12% of cases to 48%
  • Disposal versus new registered cases is now at 144%
  • Prison congestion has decreased from 500% occupation to 214% in 2011
  • Recorded crime rate has reduced from 502 per 100000 reduced to 302 per 100000
  • Conviction rate has increased from 22% to 53% in 2012
  • Public confidence in the criminal justice system has increased from 21% in 2005 to 60% in 2012
  • Average length of stay on remand has come down from 5 years to under a year in 2012
  • The prorption of the population in pretrial detention has decreased from from 70% to 53%
  • Over the period June 2011 - July 2012 8546 sentenced to community service

Challenges which remain include delays experienced in the pre-trial phase. These are largely due to too many cases being registered each year. There are too few judges to deal with the registered cases. There 45 judges in whole of Uganda - some of whom are not in active service – whereas the optimum number is 82.

There is disagreement between the judiciary and the Uganda Prison Service around whether the Uganda Prison Service has the power to grant remission in relation to life imprisonment cases.

People sentenced to death remain unsentenced after the death penalty was quashed by the Constitutional Court – judges do not want to take post-conviction evidence in mitigation of sentence. This is an impasse.

Quality of defence counsel is also of concern. Counsels on state briefs are frequently newly graduated or failed lawyers. There is no  comprehensive legal aid scheme in Uganda.

Finally there is no effective probation scheme or parole system.

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